(Image taken from here.)
Since the time of Adam and Eve, there exists a spiritual battle between the faithful and the powers of darkness; it’s a battle that will continue until the end of the world. In this battle, there are two armies: on the one hand, Satan and his demons; on the other, St. Michael and the Christians.
You might ask: why St. Michael, and not Christ himself, given that St. Benedict speaks of the monastic life as military service under the banner of Christ, the true King? The reason is simple and employs the principle of aequitas. Satan is an angel, Michael is an angel, and so, the battlefield is the same. Christ, on the other hand, is true God and true man, and has already fought the good fight: mors et vita duello conflixere mirando: death and life contended in a spectacular battle, recites the Easter Sequence (cf. Victimae Paschali laudes). So, the Lord leaves the battlefield to us, helping us with his grace. In today’s Gospel, Christ offers us important insights so that we might conquer this spiritual battle.
The fights between the two armies (the demons and us) need education and training. For new demons, so to speak, who lack experience, there is a special course of four lessons:
- The first lesson describes the psychology of a temptation. The Dark One instructs: “Remember that there are three stages for an effective temptation: first, the suggestion itself; it’s easy to insinuate the temptation in the mind of those who are weak. Then, secondly, the victim, when he considers the suggestion, enjoys the pleasure: here one can work quite efficiently. If you’re able to deceive the victim to this point, the third moment will immediately follow: the consent of the will. Learn well what I’ve told you!”
- The second lesson is more specialized; it’s not for beginners, but rather for demons who have acquired some more experience. Again, the Dark One says: “Attentively observe people’s behavior. Unfortunately, we cannot read their hearts, we can’t see their minds, but we can watch their gestures, their words, and every last sign which indicates to us their weak spot. Then, attack!”
- The attack takes place with a bow and arrow. Therefore, the third lesson is an exercise on how to handle the bow so as to precisely hit the bull’s eye.
- Finally, after all of this training, if the demons have been good students, they will receive the fourth lesson, eight special arrows which correspond to the eight vices: gluttony, lust, avarice, anger, dejection, listlessness (acedia), vainglory, and pride. The art of temptation is to observe well the behavior of the victim to find his weak point, introducing an appealing temptation, then choosing the right arrow, and fire!
On the other hand, the Christian’s “internship” or “training” is a bit more demanding. Even here, though, there are four principle movements:
- The first moment is Baptism, when one enrolls in the army of Christ, the true King. The rite calls for the renunciation of Satan, and the new Christian gets anointed as a preparation for the battle. Moreover, for a more serious training, we need the Lenten instruments of prayer, fasting, and good works.
- The second step requires some time. One must learn to recognize the enemy, carefully observing his behavior. And more than just the demons, we ourselves are our own chief enemy, and so we must have a good awareness of ourselves, to understand our weak points, where the enemy will surely mount an attack.
- After that, the third stage of training is when we receive the armor of God in order to resist the wiles of the devil: the shield of faith, with which one can extinguish all of the flaming arrows of the evil one, the helmet of salvation, and above all, the sword of the Spirit, that is, the word of God (cf. Eph 6:11-17). A good understanding of the word of God is essential for the fourth stage of Christian formation.
- As the enemy attacks us with one of the eight arrows, we need to be able to not only block the arrows, but also we need to turn them around on him.
Now, we’ve arrived at the crux of our reflection. In today’s Gospel, what was the strategy of our Lord in resisting the temptations of the devil? Let’s imitate his example! He took the arrows fired at him from the devil, and, with a passage from Scripture, Christ threw them back towards his adversary.
- Let’s consider the arrow of gluttony: after 40 days of fasting, Jesus was hungry. From his treasure of biblical passages, the Lord blocked the temptation from the devil: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Mt 4:4).
- Then, the arrow of vainglory: If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down! (Mt 4:6). And the Lord chose from his quiver the right word: You shall not tempt the Lord your God! (Mt 4:7).
- Finally, the diabolic arrow of pride: Satan quite pompously says: all these [the kingdoms of the world] I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me! (Mt 4:8-9). And the Lord, using his proven strategy, responds: Begone, Satan! You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve (Mt 4:10).
And so, the devil, having been defeated, leaves our Lord, and then the angels came and ministered to him.
The Art of the Spiritual Battle
In the spiritual battle, we can imitate our Lord: we can use passages from Holy Scripture as our shield against the arrows of the enemy, and even use the arrows to fire back at the demons who attack us.
- Against the spirit (or logismos) of gluttony, as we have already heard in today’s Gospel: man shall not live by bread alone (Mt 4:4).
- Against the spirit of lust: We must, therefore, guard thus against evil desires, because death hath his station near the entrance of pleasure (RB 7:24).
- Against the logismos of avarice: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Lk 12:34).
- Against the spirit of anger: do not let the sun go down on your anger (Eph 4:26).
- Against the logismos of dejection: why are you cast down, o my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God (Ps 42:5)
- Against the spirit of listlessness (or acedia): for you have need of endurance, so that you may do the will of God and receive what is promised (Heb 10:36).
- Against the logismos of vainglory: But I am a worm, and no man; scorned by men, and despised by the people (Ps 22:6).
- And finally, against the spirit of pride: Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner (cf. Lk 18:13).
The arrows which I’ve just demonstrated are simply examples. There is a whole patristic literary tradition on this topic (see Evagrius of Ponticus, Talking Back: Antirrhetikos), and meditating on Holy Scripture, each one of us can find verses more adapted for our own personal battle.
If we force ourselves to take seriously the demands of the spiritual battle, then we might conclude that we aren’t well-prepared because we don’t know Holy Scripture very well. But, if we aren’t prepared, the enemy will win. Therefore, Lent is a period of grace, given to us by the Church, in which we can begin, or take up again more seriously, this spiritual training.
(English translation of an Italian homily from a Benedictine monk.)
Thanks to His Excellency, Bishop Conley for some wonderful thoughts on vocations, liturgy (including the Extraordinary Form), and the importance of ad orientem (facing liturgical east). Here’s a recent interview he gave to Catholic World Report:
The Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska has become well-known in recent years for its high number of priestly vocations relative to its small size; it also has a reputation as a bastion of orthodoxy and liturgical excellence in the Latin Rite. Bishop James Conley, the bishop of Lincoln since 2012, was among the attendants of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students’ (FOCUS) SLS 18 conference in Chicago earlier this month. His Excellency graciously made time to answer a few questions about the reasons his diocese is thriving.
Nicholas LaBanca, for CWR: I’d like to center our conversation today on how young people in the Church have begun to discover the riches of their liturgical patrimony in the Latin Rite. We can’t fail to observe that your diocese has consistently produced many vocations to the priesthood; the Diocese of Lincoln saw 17 men ordained to the priesthood in a two-year period, outpacing much larger archdioceses like Los Angeles, for instance. What would you say has contributed to this relative boom of priestly vocations in your diocese?
Bishop James Conley: Well there’s a lot of reasons for that, I believe. Grace, lots of grace, obviously. But I’d say one of the several things that we can directly attribute this to is the episcopal leadership. We’ve had basically 40-plus years of good bishops. Two of my most immediate predecessors come to mind: Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, who was bishop of Lincoln for 20 years, and Bishop Glennon Flavin, who was bishop for about 22 years [beginning in] 1967. So in those turbulent post-conciliar years since the end of the Second Vatican Council, we had our diocese led by bishops who really were very clear in their teaching and were very faithful to the Magisterium and what the Church’s patrimony was as far as doctrine goes. And [also] the liturgy. You know the revolution after the Second Vatican Council took many shapes and forms. You had the sexual revolution but you also had the liturgical revolution, you had the doctrinal revolution, everything was up for grabs.
In Lincoln, they steered a steady course and so there was never any liturgical aberrations. The priests were told very clearly that they would follow and would celebrate the Mass the way the Church wants it celebrated, and there were no exceptions to that. As far as teaching goes, the schools and the priests taught very sound doctrine. And the result is two things. One, our vocations stayed steady. So even though I’ve had the privilege of ordaining I think about 25 men in the last five years since I’ve been to Lincoln, we still have the highest number of seminarians per Catholic in the country. We have 96,000 Catholics and we have currently 39 seminarians. We’re a small diocese. But the result of that leadership—and I have inherited that so I don’t attribute that to myself at all, I just don’t want to mess it up. I want to keep it going. But I really have been the beneficiary of the great leadership of those two bishops. The result has been those vocations. Success breeds success. We have 146 active priests in the Diocese of Lincoln and the average age is 41. That’s more than 20 years younger than I am. So I’m the old guy in the diocese.
And when you have all these young priests who are in the parishes, and in the schools, and in the university, then young people see an example of religious life. And we have religious sisters. Bishop Flavin started a community of school sisters who teach in our schools, School Sisters of Christ the King. I just elevated them to the level of a diocesan rite, and they continue to teach. Four of them are principals in our grade schools and they teach in our grade schools. We have 37 religious sisters in full habit teaching in our schools and we have 48 priests that are either administrators or teaching in our schools. So Catholic education has been a very important part of the success of the Diocese of Lincoln. So to summarize: liturgy and worship, where people feel that when they come to Mass, they are in contact with the Transcendent. This is where I think Sacred Liturgy is so important.
You talked about our patrimony. We have this rich liturgical tradition and you go back throughout the history of the Church. What is the Sacred Liturgy supposed to do? Sacred Liturgy is supposed to put us in contact with the transcendent God. We’re supposed to have an experience of the holy. That’s what the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is. That’s why the Lord said, “Do this in remembrance of me.” And the beauty of that experience, the beauty of the music, the beauty of the worship and the reverence and the piety—it takes people out of the everyday, mundane world that we live in. A lot of suffering and hardship. And they have this contact for a while with the holy. And that’s key. People have to be nourished. Our souls desire contact with the holy. If we’re deprived of that, we wither away, and so we need that.
People, when they discover it, need more of it. So one of the initiatives I’m trying to promote is Eucharistic Adoration, in as many of our parishes as we can. Because when we come before our Lord and His Eucharistic face—the Sacrament of Divine Friendship as it’s sometimes called—our Lord’s heart speaks to our hearts. And we need those moments. There are very few places left today where we can be relatively certain that we’re not going be interrupted. And a Eucharistic Adoration chapel—as long as you turn your phone off—is one of the last places, one of the last oases of silence. People need that. Here at SLS 18…and also youth retreats and Engaged Encounter and all the different apostolates of the Church—and in applications for seminaries—people say that where they really heard the Lord speak to their hearts was in the quiet moments of Eucharistic Adoration. People in parishes whose marriages are falling apart—they go before the Lord, and they’re just in shambles—they let the Lord speak to them and heal them. This is where it all happens. That’s why Eucharistic Adoration is so important.
CWR: I’m happy that you had brought up the subject transcendence in the liturgy. You’ve been celebrating the Ordinary Form of the Mass ad orientem each Advent for several years now, and several other priests have done the same in your diocese, and around the country as well. This past summer, I was able to sit down with a Byzantine Rite priest, Father Thomas Loya of the Ruthenian Catholic Eparchy in Parma. We had talked about ad orientem worship and the life of the Church. In the course of our conversation, he had noted that turning the altars back around is of the upmost importance, and that doing so was “holding the key to everything in the Latin Rite Church.” Do you believe that in worshiping ad orientem, laypeople and priests alike are more apt to feel that they are being lifted up to partake in the Heavenly Liturgy?
Bishop Conley: I do agree with that, and I’ve experienced that in my own priesthood. Way back in the 1990s I was chaplain at Wichita State University. And I, during Advent one year, began celebrating ad orientem, facing east, with the Advent theme of looking to the east and the star and everything. I just continued to do it…I did catechesis and I explained to everyone why this tradition has been so prevalent in the Church, just up until recent times, and how we are all worshiping together. We’re all facing the Lord together and the priest is leading us to the New Jerusalem, to Heaven. We stand in solidarity with one another, offering worship to God. It’s not the priest facing the people and speaking to them, it’s all of us facing God. So I’ve always been a big fan of ad orientem. When I came to Lincoln, I introduced it at the cathedral for Advent and I encouraged priests. I said, “If you believe that this would help you and your people, by all means do this as long as you give the catechesis and explain it to the people.” So like you said, we have a number of pastors who have done that. I do it now every time I celebrate Mass at the cathedral, at the Newman Center, at our seminary, and at our retreat house. And I don’t force it. And there are some times you can’t do it because architecturally it’s hard. But it’s catching on more and more. And I think the people really do respond to that. I think as a priest, we think it’s going to be really shocking to people, and it’s not. People are just like, “Fine, Father.” The funny thing is, you end up facing the people during a normal Mass longer than you don’t face them. Because you begin the Mass, and you do the Introductory Rite, and the readings, and the homily, and then you go to the altar. I timed it once. It’s basically three-fifths of the time you’re facing the people, two-fifths of the time you’re facing the altar.
CWR: Pretty much just for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
Bishop Conley: That’s it. And when you’re giving Communion, you’re facing the people. But I would agree that it’s very helpful for the priest because it’s less distracting for the priest. He’s focused on really the most important thing that he’s doing—the most important thing that he ever does—and that is offering the Holy Sacrifice. And when you’re focused on the action of the Mass and that’s all you see—over the Host and the Precious Blood—then you’re more tuned in, than I think when you’re facing the whole congregation of people. Not that you can’t be focused in that way. You can. But it’s harder. You have to concentrate more.
CWR: Now you mentioned that for priests, and for laypeople, returning to certain traditions has been both helpful and warmly received. But let’s talk specifically about young people—do you believe that they are more open to the liturgical patrimony of the Latin Rite than older generations? Have you seen an uptick in the amount of young people embracing these Latin traditions in the past five or 10 years?
Bishop Conley: Well, one example, just a couple weeks ago during Advent, one of our priests celebrated a Rorate caeli Mass. A Saturday morning Mass at 6:00 am, in the dark, just candlelit, in the Extraordinary Form. It was a Solemn High Mass and they had the choir. Four hundred and fifty college students showed up for that.
It was amazing. I thought, fine, go ahead, you’re not going to get college students up at six o’clock in the morning. But the word went out on Facebook and Twitter, and they all showed up. They said it was amazing because they had this beautiful choir singing sacred polyphony and chant. They loved it. They had a great experience of the transcendent and the holy.
CWR: What advice would you give to young people who are really trying to uncover and share their legitimate traditions and patrimony, in indifferent or possibly even hostile environments?
Bishop Conley: I would say to be patient, and to pray, and to not give up. I think that sometimes it’s hard, especially for priests, to be open to some of the great liturgical traditions that, maybe in their minds, the Church has put aside. But I can tell you this [about] the younger generation of priests, those priests that have been ordained in the last 10 years, let’s say: it’s my generation that is not open; the younger generation is open. And that means that younger bishops are open. Because so go priests, so go bishops. There’s going to be a whole new generation of bishops that are going to be serving the Church as shepherds in the next 10 years who are also much more open to this great liturgical patrimony, and who have not sort of been through the liturgical wars like those in my generation have. So, I think, just be patient, be kind, be charitable, but be persistent.
Because Easter Sunday is early this year, Lent comes early (starting on February 14th with Ash Wednesday), and thus the Season of Septuagesima begins oddly before the Feast of the Purification. What is Septuagesima and why is it important?
Septuagesima and Lent are both times of penance, Septuagesima being a time of voluntary fasting in preparation for the obligatory Great Fast of Lent. The theme is the Babylonian exile, the “mortal coil” we must endure as we await the Heavenly Jerusalem. Sobriety and somberness reign liturgically; the Alleluia and Gloria are banished.
The Sundays of Septugesima are named for their distance away from Easter:
- The first Sunday of Septuagesima gives its name to the entire season as it is known as “Septuagesima.” “Septuagesima” means “seventy,” and Septuagesima Sunday comes roughly seventy days before Easter. This seventy represents the seventy years of the Babylonian Captivity. It is on this Sunday that the alleluia is “put away,” not to be said again until the Vigil of Easter.
- The second Sunday of Septuagesima is known as “Sexagesima, which means “sixty”. Sexagesima Sunday comes roughly sixty days before Easter.
- The third Sunday of Septuagesima is known as “Quinquagesima,” which means “fifty” and which comes roughly fifty days before Easter.
Quadragesima means “forty,” and this is the name of the first Sunday of Lent and the Latin name for the entire season of Lent.
Throughout this short Season of Septuagesima – and the next Season of Lent – you will notice a deepening sense of penance and somberness, culminating in Passiontide (the last two weeks of Lent), that will suddenly and joyously end at the Vigil of Easter on Holy Saturday when the alleluia returns and Christ’s Body is restored and glorified.
Slightly modified and taken from Fish Eaters.
Throughout the year, the Church prays different Marian Antiphons based on the proper liturgical season. We’ll post the current Antiphon throughout the year:
Advent/Christmas: Alma Redemptoris Mater
Lent: Ave Regina Caelorum
Easter: Regina Caeli
Pentecost: Salve Regina
Here’s a great article about the different seasons, highlighting the Ave Regina Caelorum, which is sung from February 2nd (Purification/Candlemas) until the Easter Vigil.
The four Marian Antiphons have traditionally been sung at the end of Compline – each one during a particular season of the Church Year. Ave, Regina Caelorum is the antiphon sung from Purification/Candlemas (February 2) until the Easter Vigil.
Here’s a video of the antiphon sung to the Simple Tone by the Benedictine Monks of the Abbey at Ganagobie. Chant score from the Liber Usualis (1961), p. 278. (English translation below.)
Here’s the chant score of the Simple Tone version, from the Liber Usualis:
This translation was done for our monastery by Dr. Rudolph Masciantonio, president of the Philadelphia Latin Liturgy Association:
Hail, queen of heaven, hail lady of the angels. Hail, root, hail the door through which the Light of the world is risen. Rejoice, glorious Virgin, beautiful above all. Hail, O very fair one, and plead for us to Christ.
A dear donor and member of Una Voce Des Moines has purchased a brand new Roman Missal for our use when we “take the show on the road”! Thanks to Ralph and his wife, Nancy, for their extraordinary generosity!
We grabbed a photo of the officers and Ralph holding the newly-minted Missal following a recent Mass.
Would you like to offer a Traditional Latin Mass at your parish or church? Contact us and we’ll be happy to help by taking the “show on the road”. We look forward to putting this beautiful, new missal to good use!
(Article taken from an interview conducted by Regina Magazine with Dr. Joseph Shaw, Chairman of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales.)
By Anna-Maria Vesey
Some of REGINA’s readers don’t attend a Traditional Latin Mass, but are, well, curious. Many are keen to experience for themselves why it is that so many young people and families are enthusiastic about this ancient Mass.
But something is holding them back. Often, Catholics with kids wonder: if they struggle with misbehaving children at a Novus Ordo Mass, won’t their kids be too noisy, fidgety, distracted or even unwelcome at a Latin Mass?
REGINA’s Anna-Maria Vesey recently sat down to discuss this hot topic with a man who is eminently qualified to respond. Not only is he the head of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales, but Oxford University professor Joseph Shaw is the hands-on father of seven young children.
REGINA: With all its formality, are children welcome at the Traditional Latin Mass?
JOSEPH SHAW: There is such a thing as hostility to families and children in some churches, but this is much more common at the Ordinary Form than it is at the Traditional Mass, where there is a noticeably higher proportion of children present. This is partly because of larger families, and partly because the Traditional Mass is sought out by young parents. The sour looks and tut-tutting one gets as a parent trying to manage small children at Mass generally come from people, usually lay people but occasionally priests, who aren’t used to seeing children at Mass. People who go regularly to the TLM are that much more likely to be used to them.
REGINA: What do you say to parents with young children who are considering attending a Latin Mass?
JOSEPH SHAW: So my first message to parents is that you’ll find more fellow-feeling and sympathy at the Latin Mass than you may be used to at your usual parish Mass, especially if your parish has tried to push children into a sort of kiddies’ ghetto, with ‘children’s Masses,’, ‘children’s liturgy’, and ‘crying rooms’. These things have the effect of making many parishes’ main Masses children-free zones.
REGINA: “Kiddies’ ghetto”?
JOSEPH SHAW: Yes. In the kiddies’ ghetto itself you get not tut-tutting but, all too often, a feeling by many of the children, and even some of their parents, that there is no need to make any effort to maintain a prayerful atmosphere. In that situation children are never going to learn what kind of behaviour is appropriate at Mass.
REGINA: What do you suggest, instead?
JOSEPH SHAW: The ideal situation, to help parents teach their children how to behave appropriately, is a Mass where there is an atmosphere to pick up on and examples to follow: not a zoo-like atmosphere, not a church full of tut-tutting old people, and not behind a sound-proof glass screen.
REGINA: How should one prepare to engage with the Latin liturgy for the first time?
JOSEPH SHAW: There is nothing special you need to do. The liturgy is not a test for which you should study: it is an experience. If you want to get the most out of it, you may want to learn more about it, but you have to have the experience first, and you have to have it repeatedly.
REGINA: And the children?
JOSEPH SHAW: Children’s general education in the Faith, at home and at school, will help, but they should be getting this whatever kind of Mass you are attending.
First, children should be taking part in family prayers. If you want to teach children to get used to kneeling and being quiet and recollected, ten minutes’ practice a day is a lot more effective than an hour once a week.
Secondly, every catechism and Religious Instruction course includes material on the nature of the Mass and the other sacraments. Some catechisms and courses do this better than others, naturally.
REGINA: And what about the music?
JOSEPH SHAW: It is probably too much to expect your friendly local Catholic school to teach your children Latin and Gregorian Chant, but it should be: they are every Western Catholic’s birthright.
REGINA: How do we learn about what’s going on in a Latin Mass?
JOSEPH SHAW: If you do make the Latin Mass your regular Mass, there are lots of excellent books available for children of different ages to look at during Mass, and to read and have read to them at home. They will help your children (and perhaps you too) to understand more exactly what is happening at each stage, and what the ceremonies signify. As the children grow older there are hand missals with the readings and other texts for each Mass, prayers for personal use, and beautiful pictures.
REGINA: Sounds lovely!
JOSEPH SHAW: I would not wish to place too much emphasis on these books, however. One does not go to church in order to read a book: one can do that at home. We attend Mass in order to take part in the Mass, which means looking at what is happening, and listening to the chants, in a spirit of prayerful contemplation. You can’t teach your children prayerful contemplation from a book. The Mass will teach it to them: as Pope Benedict said, the liturgy is a school of prayer.
REGINA: What would you advise anyone thinking about attending the Traditional Mass for the first time?
JOSEPH SHAW: If you have the choice, go to a Sung Mass. Low Mass is a wonderful experience, but it takes more getting used to. The music at Sung Mass, if it is done well, adds an extra level of beauty to the Mass, and an extra way to engage with it. If they are singing Chant, children attending regularly can with a little encouragement easily learn the ‘Ordinary’ Chants (Kyrie, Sanctus, Agnus) and join in.
REGINA: What advice would you give parents to help them keep their children focused whilst at the Mass?
JOSEPH SHAW: What parents need to do, and do actually do, is not any different in the Traditional Mass, though the Traditional Mass offers some advantages in doing it.
Infants in Mass just need to be happy, or asleep, if they are not to disturb their parents and others, and if they are unhappy because they need something, parents do their best to give it to them. Sometimes what they need is a breath of fresh air, so you take them outside.
When they are a bit older, as toddlers, they can play with toys, stickers, or colouring in. When they are older still, you can start pointing out key moments in the Mass to them, like the Consecration. This becomes more important as they prepare for First Holy Communion, for which they’ll also be getting some preparation outside Mass. Gradually, they start attending to the Mass in the way that adults do. When they can read fluently, they can benefit from books already mentioned. To repeat, this is the same whatever Form the Mass is, and parents shouldn’t imagine that there are any special problems or requirements at the Traditional Mass.
REGINA: What is different about the Traditional Mass in terms of the parents’ job, whatever the age of their children?
JOSEPH SHAW: It’s easier.
JOSEPH SHAW: For the youngest children, being calm and quiet is easier because they are in a calm and quiet environment, and parents often say that their young children behave better at the Latin Mass. In one of his columns in the UK’s Catholic Herald, Fr Tim Finigan addressed parents’ question about how to encourage their young children to be quiet in Mass, with the simple advice: ‘Take them to a quieter Mass.’
REGINA: Some may call that counter-intuitive for small children.
JOSEPH SHAW: There is an attitude that, because one can never guarantee one’s children won’t make any noise, they will disturb people more at a quiet Mass, so parents with small children belong at a noisy Mass where they won’t make things much worse than they already are.
This is a counsel of despair. Teachers get children, eventually, to be quiet in class; parents teach their children to behave at their grandparents’; you have to stop your children climbing the rigging when on a ferry. Children learn these things because they must. Mass is no different.
REGINA: And when they get older?
JOSEPH SHAW: When you want to start pointing things out to older children, then the Traditional Mass has another great advantage: the ceremonies are much more dramatic and expressive than in the Novus Ordo. The traditional Consecration, with its associated genuflections, elevations, bells, and incense, developed at a time when lay Catholics went infrequently to Communion, and it is designed to facilitate a participation in Holy Communion not only by physical reception but by looking, gazing, and by an interior intention. Thus it is ideally suited to children who haven’t yet had their First Communion. Parents can encourage their children to make an interior act of Faith (‘My Lord and my God’), and a formal or informal Spiritual Communion at this point, or when the priest receives.
REGINA: Ah, yes. There does seem to be more drama, if that’s the right word.
JOSEPH SHAW: There are many other dramatic and expressive moments in Mass which parents can point out, such as the genuflections in the Creed and the Last Gospel, and when the priest shows the congregation the consecrated host (‘Ecce Agnus Dei’). There is no need to draw children’s attention to everything every time: you can just point some out every now and then. Children, like adults, must be allowed to participate in the Mass with their own thoughts and prayers.
REGINA: People may wonder what children can get out of the Latin verbiage and complex ceremonies which they will be experiencing in the Traditional Mass?
JOSEPH SHAW: They certainly don’t get much out of the vernacular texts they experience at the Ordinary Form. From the laity’s point of view, this resembles a lecture: a torrent of words. Something less calculated to engage children’s attention would be difficult to imagine. Children naturally have limited verbal skills, and even adults struggle to pay attention and to understand a long text delivered orally. The multiplicity of options and the multi-year lectionary are designed to prevent many of these texts becoming familiar, in case they would be boring, but this again makes them harder to follow.
REGINA: Yes, that’s an interesting point. The Novus Ordo IS very focused on talking.
JOSEPH SHAW: The difficulty here is that the vernacular Mass attempts to do almost all its communication using words. The Traditional Mass communicates through a full range of means, using atmosphere, beautiful and complex vestments and church furnishings, visually striking ceremonies, incense, special forms of music, and above all the dignity and beauty of a sacred language, to convey the central message of the liturgy: the supernatural importance and dignity of Sacrament and Sacrifice. Since you can’t get all that much through to children using words alone, this means the ancient Mass has a considerable advantage.
REGINA: You have written about the role of altar boys in the TLM. Does their presence have any effect on the male children attending, do you think?
JOSEPH SHAW: Another advantage the Traditional Mass has is in relation to boys serving. This is not so attractive in the Ordinary Form, where servers do not play such an important or interesting role, and where serving has in many places become a very female-dominated activity. At the Traditional Mass it can have an extraordinary effect on little boys, who can find it more difficult than girls to sit still and quiet in the congregation for long periods. The discipline of serving, and its close involvement with the ceremonies, gives them a new angle on Mass, and they often become rather enthusiastic about it.
REGINA: Any final words?
JOSEPH SHAW: What is most important, however, is not how many facts children know about the Mass, or even about the catechism, but the encounter with God which the liturgy makes possible.
Many thanks to Fr. Cassian of the Benedictine Monks of Norcia for joining Una Voce Des Moines for our kickoff event on Saturday, Sept 30th at the Basilica of St. John in Des Moines, Iowa!
Here are some photos of the event (courtesy of Lisa Bourne)! Some audio and text are (possibly) forthcoming.
Here was the schedule of the event, and we had a great turnout! More than 100 guests joined us for the Day of Recollection, more than 150 for Mass (the first TLM at the Basilica of St. John’s in 25 years), and then we finished the day with Monastic None. Thanks for all who drove from far and wide — we had guests from 7 states, including a few seminarians!
The ember days – Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday – were prescribed for the Church by Pope Gregory VII as days of prayer and fasting for the gifts of nature, to teach men to make use of them in moderation, and to assist the needy. (See “The Catholic Encyclopedia“)
Ember Days occur four times a year, corresponding to the four seasons. The winter Ember Days occur on the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday following the Feast of St. Lucy on December 13. The Spring Ember Days follow Ash Wednesday. The Fall Ember Days follow the Feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross on September 14. The Summer Ember Days follow Pentecost.
These dates are given in the following Latin mnemonic:
Dant Crux, Lucia, Cineres, Charismata Dia
Ut sit in angariâ quarta sequens feria
Or in an old English rhyme
“Fasting days and Emberings be
Lent, Whitsun, Holyrood, and Lucie.”
Jacobus de Voragine tells us that we fast on Ember Days in part to atone for faults that correspond to the character of the seasons:
“Spring is warm and humid, summer hot and dry, autumn cool and dry, winter cold and wet. Therefore we fast in the spring to control the harmful fluid of voluptuousness in us; in summer, to allay the noxious heat of avarice; in autumn, to temper the aridity of pride; in winter, to overcome the coldness of malice and lack of faith.” Jacobus de Voragine, The Golden Legend.
The Code of Canon Law of 1983 no longer requires the observance of the Ember Days fast, and the reform of the Roman Calendar in 1969 left them to the discretion of local ordinaries. Nevertheless, personal observance of Ember Days in Catholic homes, especially in an agricultural state like Iowa, helps to connect us with the rich liturgical tradition of the Church.