Promoting Traditional Catholicism in Central Iowa

Category: Homily & Reflection Page 2 of 3

Link between the Traditional Mass & Vocations?

In a recent article over at “The Liturgy Guy”, he posted a beautiful reflection from a priest of Norwalk, CT.  While he contrasts the number of vocations from young men attending Traditional liturgies with those attending the Novus Ordo, the reason we post this here is to emphasize the trajectory of Traditional Vocations, and the role the Traditional Mass has in those vocations in general.

He says he’s been doing some research on vocations, and it would be neat to see those results.

Below is the article, which is taken from here.

The following guest post was written by frequent contributor Fr. Donald Kloster, parochial vicar at St. Mary’s in the Diocese of Bridgeport, Connecticut.

I’ve been mulling over many questions lately that pertain to the families of those who enter a Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) vocation to the Priesthood and/or Religious life. A related query is how well the Traditional Latin Mass retains those children now being brought up within the Traditional Latin Mass since their early childhood or at least from the time of their earliest memories.

My experience with those raised in the Latin Mass prior to the Second Vatican Council tells me that the knowledge and retention of the faith is promoted by the Vetus Ordo.  My Novus Ordo observations tell me that it leaks faithful like a faulty gasket of an engine leaks oil.

The Novus Ordo culture has produced a plethora of faithful who know very little about their faith despite a myriad of “new” catechetical gimmicks. The Rite of the Mass cannot but help to nourish the soul in the degrees of fidelity to the Apostolic praxis.  We are the result of the Mass we pray. In the Novus Ordo, the engine still runs, but it runs at a diminished capacity because of a minimalist design.

My priest friends who don’t say the TLM are almost single minded in their rebuttal of my conclusion. They insist that it’s all about the families in which people are raised.  Wrong.  On both sides of the argument, either one can point to families that were fairly exemplary but their children don’t practice the faith once they leave home.  Or, as I’ve come across, many others whose parents did not practice the Faith regularly and now their children have chosen to do so as adults on their own.

I’ve lived in 11 different US Dioceses and lived on three continents. Perhaps that speaks less in my favor as it pertains to my being bounced around as I was!  Anecdotes can only be dismissed if the sample size of the given observation is small and fairly isolated. My sample size is quite large.  Sometimes anecdotal occurrences are repeated so often that the conclusion should not be dismissed; that is as it pertains to reasonable thinking.

I’ve been involved in TLM circles for 28 years and have said the Traditional Mass for 20 years. I am, however, a product of the Novus Ordo. I never even saw a TLM until I was 24 years old. I went to the Seminary and was ordained as a Novus Ordo priest. My first TLM was as a 3 year ordained priest in 1998. I have no dog in this fight.  Really, when I began to say the TLM I thought it was just for the good of my priestly spirituality. I never thought the TLM would catch on again in any wider scope; ever.

This past year, I have been doing a National Study on the TLM only parishes in the USA. Currently, there are around 70 of these but they are exploding in numbers with each passing year because the TLM priestly vocations are outpacing Novus Ordo priestly vocations by more than 7 to 1. My preliminary numbers are exceeding my initial expectations.

There is a huge wave transforming the Catholic landscape and it is largely being ignored by the Catholic leadership.  I can now say what I suspected last year. The Novus Ordo is dying and it will be replaced by the Vetus Ordo sooner than anyone had foreseen, but certainly by 2050 the TLM will be the dominant liturgical practice once again.

My instincts tell me that 30-50% of the current vocations coming from the Traditional Latin Mass were not raised in it. Next year, I’ll try to test that feeling with the aforementioned study. A great number of the young men and women entering the TLM orders discovered it themselves; it wasn’t their family upbringing. My belief is that the Ancient Mass is the vocations catalyst and not the family per se.

One can certainly find a vocation as a Novus Ordo attendee, but all of the evidence suggests that many, many more are found as a TLM attendee. One huge proof is the precipitous vocations drop off after the Council and the abandoning of the 1962 Missal. The other proof is that vocations continue to rocket up in 2018 in the TLM and have leveled off at a very much lower level in the Novus Ordo seminaries and convents using the 1970 Missal. The Novus Ordo closed convents and seminaries will never reach their previous levels because there is no upward trend; not even in the same ballpark.  Remember, all Catholics live in the same society and we all have similar temptations and spiritual obstacles to overcome.  “By their fruit ye shall know them” (Mt. 7:16).

Finally, let’s be clear. This article is not intended to disparage anyone. Not one of us should cling to anything that is passing away. There is no reason to put your faith in something in order to win an argument or simply because at one time you thought things would improve with the Novus Ordo. Instead, things got much worse.

At the dawn of the promulgation of the Novus Ordo, we bled a big majority of Mass attending Catholics. No one asked them what they preferred. No one gave them any options. If they had been asked and/or allowed to attend the Mass of the Ages, the Novus Ordo would not have supplanted the formative Mass of every canonized saint to date.

Now bishops often repeat the stale quoted refrain, “almost no one wants the TLM.” Why do they suddenly care what the proverbial “people” want? They didn’t care back in 1970 when almost none of the faithful wanted a vernacular Mass. It’s true the Church is not a democracy.  She is a theocracy and God will have His way! Everything is coming back full circle and I have a lot of buried relatives and friends who, if living today, would be overjoyed.

To Revel in the Beauty of the Church

To Revel in the Beauty of the Church
by Andy Milam

Recently, Raymond Cardinal Burke made the following statement:

“The beauty of the Sacred Liturgy is given concrete expression by means of the objects and the gestures of which the person – a unity of soul and body – has need in order to be raised to the realities of faith which transcend the visible world. This means that sacred architecture and sacred art, including the sacred appointments, the vestments, the vessels and linens, must be of such a quality that they can express and communicate the beauty and the majesty of the liturgy as the action of Christ among us, uniting heaven and earth.” 

His Eminence went on to say:

“According to the rationalistic thought which has strongly influenced contemporary western culture, beauty has been stripped of its metaphysical meaning. It has been ‘liberated’ from the order of being and has been reduced to an aesthetic experience or even to something sentimental. The disastrous consequences of this revolution are not limited to the world of art. Precisely because we have lost beauty, we have also lost goodness and truth.”

There is so much hope for the future of reform (restoration) of the Sacred Liturgy! Look at these quotes from a message sent to the conference by His Eminence Robert Card. Sarah, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments:

“When the Holy Father, Pope Francis, asked me to accept the ministry of Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments, I asked: ‘Your Holiness, how do you want me to exercise this ministry? What do you want me to do as Prefect of this Congregation?’ The Holy Father’s reply was clear. ‘I want you to continue to implement the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council,’ he said, ‘and I want you to continue the good work in the liturgy begun by Pope Benedict XVI.’” (emphasis added)

He then goes on to highlight two areas which he sees as of special importance.

“The first is by being utterly clear what Catholic liturgy is: it is the worship of Almighty God, the place where mankind encounters God alive and at work in His Church today. … The liturgy is not some social occasion where we come first, where what is important is that we express our identity.… The Church’s liturgy is given to us in tradition – it is not for us to make up the rites we celebrate, or to change them to suit ourselves or our own ideas beyond the legitimate options permitted by the liturgical books… ”

The second area is in the promotion of sound liturgical formation. The Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy went so far as to say that ‘it would be futile to entertain any hopes of realizing’ the liturgical renewal it desired ‘unless the pastors themselves … become thoroughly imbued with the spirit and power of the liturgy, and undertake to give instruction about it.’

The Mass is supposed to be a source of comfort and solace.  It is by the very power of the Holy Spirit that we come to understand what is really behind the liturgy.  Just as Christ exposed the Apostles to it on Holy Thursday and ratified it on Good Friday, we are able to witness that same truth, in an unbloody way, every time we assist at Mass.

Fr. Thomas Kocik adds to this thought…

“The phrase ‘reform of the reform’ gained currency in the 1990s as a result of Cardinal Ratzinger’s critique of what went wrong (and what went right) with the liturgical reform pursuant to Vatican Council II … Justice to Sacrosanctum Concilium and to the Church’s liturgical heritage demands such criticism, at the very least. That is the basis on which to consider the merits of a liturgical ‘reform of the reform’ …

I am optimistic, overall, because the mood in the year 2015 about liturgical renewal and its post-Vatican II success differs from that of the 1970s and ’80s. Thanks in no small part to the longstanding and well known views of Benedict XVI on liturgy, postconciliar liturgical reform has been reconfigured by a new theological and ecclesial climate. This signals some hope that the official “reform of the reform” may, in God’s good time, come to pass (even if it goes by another name or no name at all), thus ending a long period of tragic liturgical polarization.”

Fr. Kocik’s words are very poignant, as are the two cardinals.  The message is consistent and the message is clear, from the top down.  We must guard the sacred treasury of the liturgical action.  We must not give in to our emotions and our own whims, but rather we must do that which the Church asks of each of us.  “Art and Environment” as defined in 1978 is not what the Church intended.  No friends, the Church was clear in her message from Vatican Council II.  Do what the Church intends, not what the individual intends.  This is never more clear than in the paragraph from Sacrosanctum Concilium no. 22.

It reads,

“Regulation of the sacred liturgy depends solely on the authority of the Church, that is, on the Apostolic See and, as laws may determine, on the bishop.

In virtue of power conceded by the law, the regulation of the liturgy within certain defined limits belongs also to various kinds of competent territorial bodies of bishops legitimately established.

Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority.”

The last sentence is the kingpin.  We don’t have the authority to innovate.  Do what the Church asks.  The Pope is the first legislator of the law of the Church, therefore, the reforms that Pope Emeritus Benedict enacted are in keeping with the authentic spirit of Vatican Council II.  And it is ratified by both Pope Francis and Cardinal Sarah.  Frivolous and unnecessary actions should be avoided and we should strive to return to the the notion of noble simplicity.  Holy Mass is not a place for experimentation or deviation from the norm.  We should revel in the beauty that the Church offers us, by her timeless treasure.

Benedict XVI says in his memoirs, Milestones: Memoirs 1927-1977,

“A renewal of liturgical awareness, a liturgical reconciliation that again recognizes the unity of the history and that understands Vatican II, not as a breach, but as a stage of development: these things are urgently needed for the life of the Church.  I am convinced that the crisis in the Church that we are experiencing today is to a large extent due to the the disintegration of the liturgy, which at times has even come to be conceived of etsi Deus non daretur: in that it is a matter of indifference whether God or not God exists and whether or not He speaks to us and hears us.”

This is the mentality of today.  We do not live in 1970s and 80s any longer.  We live in a time in which we must not be influenced by the immediate reaction to the loosening of the liturgy, for as we see, this never was the case.  Then-Cardinal Ratzinger was ahead of his time, at odds with the proponents of “Art and Environment” and called for a renewal, not a reworking.

And that is the mentality with which we should approach Holy Mass.  Not an exaggerated sense of the surroundings, but a noble simplicity of form and function which extols the beauty of the Mass from all time.

Any other activity is purely ancillary to this primary purpose. That so many Catholics emphasize external actions — rather than interior union with the Eucharistic sacrifice — as the essence of participation, is in Benedict’s view a sign that “liturgical education today, of both priests and laity, is deficient to a deplorable extent.”  We must orient our minds and actions to God.  In doing so, we should look to that which is the most beautiful thing we can give, whether it be precious vestments, or beautiful vessels, or the most appropriate singing.

For as Benedict XVI taught in The Spirit of the Liturgy,

“The uniqueness of the eucharistic liturgy lies precisely in the fact that God himself is acting and that we are drawn into that action of God.”

Andy Milam is the Coordinator of Public Relations, Marketing, Fundraising and Tourism at the ‎Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption, an active member of the Knights of Columbus, and the Liturgical Coordinator for Una Voce Des Moines.

Ember Days: The Four Seasons Fast

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.

A Priest Recounting His First TLM

A Priest Recounting His First TLM
by Andy Milam

Some years ago, I read an article in a Catholic publication by a priest who describes himself as “liberal.”  He had finally responded to the request of some of his parishioners to celebrate the Extraordinary Form.

One reason that certain commentators have put forward for the Moto Proprio on the Extraordinary Form is the Pope Emeritus’ desire (reinforced by Pope Francis) to renew the priesthood, presumably part of that is to increase vocations, and to deepen the spirituality of priests, and therefore the Church.  Father went on to say:

“Having decided to offer the Extraordinary Form, I began the arduous project of recovering—and reinforcing—my Latin grammar and vocabulary so that I could celebrate the Mass in a prayerful and intelligible way. As I studied the Latin texts and intricate rituals I had never noticed as a boy, I discovered that the old rite’s priestly spirituality and theology were exactly the opposite of what I had expected. Whereas I had looked for the “high priest/king of the parish” spirituality, I found instead a spirituality of “unworthy instrument for the sake of the people.”

The old Missal’s rubrical micromanagement made me feel like a mere machine, devoid of personality; but, I wondered, is that really so bad? I actually felt liberated from a persistent need to perform, to engage, to be forever a friendly celebrant. When I saw a photo of the old Latin Mass in our local newspaper, I suddenly recognized the rite’s ingenious ability to shrink the priest. Shot from the choir loft, I was a mere speck of green, dwarfed by the high altar. The focal point was not the priest but the gathering of the people. And isn’t that a valid image of the church, the people of God?

The act of praying the Roman Canon slowly and in low voice accented my own smallness and mere instrumentality more than anything else. Plodding through the first 50 or so words of the Canon, I felt intense loneliness. As I moved along, however, I also heard the absolute silence behind me, 450 people of all ages praying, all bound mysteriously to the words I uttered and to the ritual actions I haltingly and clumsily performed. Following the consecration, I fell into a paradoxical experience of intense solitude as I gazed at the Sacrament and an inexplicable feeling of solidarity with the multitude behind me.”

Isn’t that how we should be approaching Holy Mass, whatever form we are assisting at, whether it be the Ordinary Form or the Extraordinary Form?  We should not look to the priest to entertain us or to captivate us.  We should not look to the priest to preside over us.

We should look to the priest to do what he is called to do and that is to call God down from heaven.  We should be entering into silent prayer.  We should be uniting our hearts and minds and souls to the miracle of the altar!  What Father does or does not do in the sanctuary is of little consequence, as long as he does two things:

  1. Says the words of consecration properly and
  2. Follows the rubrics as prescribed.

We can be assured then that Father Celebrant is doing the will of God and ministering to us as he is ordained to do.

Vatican Council II speaks to us about the importance of silence.  The Popes since Vatican Council II have reiterated the importance of knowing what our role should be and how to best commune with God, the Father.  We need to open our hearts and minds and souls to that action.  We need not feel that we must *do* something at Holy Mass (some extraordinary ministry)….but rather we must *be* at Holy Mass to worship.

Once Father understood what it was that he was called to do, he wasn’t afraid of or discouraged by the Extraordinary Form any longer, but rather, he was opened to a whole new world of ministering which he had refused to participate in, previously.  We, as faithful Catholics, need to understand that a Mass which existed for more than 400 years as the only normative vehicle for the confection of the Eucharist can do no one harm or lessen their Catholicity.

And isn’t becoming a better Catholic, more in tuned with our Catholicity, what we’re really after?

Andy Milam is the Coordinator of Public Relations, Marketing, Fundraising and Tourism at the ‎Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption, an active member of the Knights of Columbus, and the Liturgical Coordinator for Una Voce Des Moines.

7 Reasons for the Use of Latin in Mass

7 Reasons for the Use of Latin in Mass
by Andy Milam

Much of what is written below comes directly from The Catechism Explained: An Exhaustive Explanation of the Catholic Religion by Rev. Francis Spirago.

7 Reasons for the Use of Latin in the Mass

  1. The Latin language is venerable on account of its origin and its antiquity; indeed, it dates back to the earliest centuries of the Church and to the very masses offered in the obscurity of the Catacombs.
  2. There is an element of mystery about Latin. It is a [static] language, not spoken by the faithful. The use of Latin conveys to the mind of the people that something is going on upon the altar which is beyond their comprehension; that a mystery is being enacted.
  3. Latin is a liturgical language for Catholics. It is a striking fact that both Jews and pagans made use, in their worship of the Deity, of a language with which the multitude were not conversant. The Jews in fact made use of Hebrew, the language of the patriarchs; we did not see Our Lord or the apostles censuring this practice.
  4. The use of Latin in the Mass is a means of maintaining unity in the Catholic Church, for the use of one and the same language in Latin Rite churches all over the world is a connecting link to Rome, as well as between nations separated by their cultures and native tongues.
  5. Latin is a safeguard against error because of its immutability. The near exclusive use of the vernacular inevitably leads to heresies and errors creeping into the Church. Likewise, the use of Latin helps to define and defend orthodoxy. As noted by Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith at Sacra Liturgia (2013):

“The liturgical use of Latin in the Church…gives rise to a series of expressions which are unique and which constitute the very faith of the Church.  The vocabulary of the Credo is quite clearly filled with expressions in Latin which are untranslatable.  The role of the lex orandi in determining the lex credendi of the Church is very much valid in the case of its use of Latin in the liturgy.  For doctrine often evolves in the faith experience of prayer…”

  1. It is unnecessary for the faithful to hear, or understand, every ceremonial of the Mass. History has clearly shown, and experience teaches, that the fact of the prayers being in Latin does not at all hamper or interfere with the devotion of the faithful, or lead them to absent themselves from Holy Mass. As Saint Augustine instructed:

“If there are some present who do not understand what is being said or sung, they know at least that all is said and sung to the glory of God, and that is sufficient for them to join in it devoutly.”

  1. The primary reason why the whole of the Mass was historically offered in Latin is because it is a sacrifice, not an instruction for the people. The celebration of Mass consists more in action than in words. This final reason cannot be overstated. A Protestant gathering which commemorates the Lord’s Supper is simply a service of prayers and instruction. For this reason the vernacular is a necessity. The Catholic Mass, however, is a holy sacrifice offered to God the Father by an ordained priest, in persona Christi. The action of the Mass, and the mystery of it, is reinforced by the use of Latin.

In his 1962 apostolic constitution Veterum Sapientia, Pope St. John XXIII observed that:

“The Catholic Church has a dignity far surpassing that of every merely human society, for it was founded by Christ the Lord. It is altogether fitting, therefore, that the language it uses should be noble, majestic, and non-vernacular.”

May more priests and bishops in the coming years recognize that the use of Latin should not simply be limited to Masses offered in the Extraordinary Form. Indeed, both forms of the Roman Rite have every reason to be celebrated in a language that is “noble, majestic, and non-vernacular.”

Andy Milam is the Coordinator of Public Relations, Marketing, Fundraising and Tourism at the ‎Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption, an active member of the Knights of Columbus, and the Liturgical Coordinator for Una Voce Des Moines.

Fr. Cassian celebrates Mass for St. John the Baptist

American-born Benedictine monk, Fr. Cassian Folsom, O.S.B., prior emeritus of the Monks of Norcia, was in town the weekend of June 23/24 to celebrate Sunday Mass at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church.  Here are some photos, and his beautiful homily for the occasion.

Homily from Fr. Cassian Folsom, O.S.B.
St. Anthony Catholic Church
Des Moines, Iowa

Sunday, June 24, 2018
Feast of St. John the Baptist

All those who heard about the divinely-inspired birth of St. John the Baptist, and how Zechariah’s tongue was loosed in the naming of the child, marveled at these things.  “All those who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying ‘what then will this child be?’” (Lk 1:66)

First of all, he will be the Baptist, the baptizer of Christ.  This is not a baptism for the remission of sins, clearly, but the occasion for a great epiphany, the manifestation of Christ in glory.  The revealing of his true identity as beloved Son of the Father, the inauguration of his public ministry.  When John baptized Jesus, contact with the body of Christ sanctified the waters of the Jordan, and gave to the waters of baptism the spiritual power to wash away all sin – original and actual – and bring about a most wonderful re-birth.  In fact, we were sanctified by these waters to such an extent that

[t]aken up by Christ – and taken on Christ – we are not the same after the laver of baptism as we were before; instead the body of the one reborn becomes the flesh of the crucified (St. Leo, Sermon 63,6).

John baptizes, and the body of Christ is washed, both Head and members.

What then will this child be?  He will be a prophet, the prophet of the Most High.  Who is “the Most High”, but God the Father?  Yet, John is a prophet of the Messiah.  And who is the Messiah, but God the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.  And can John be a prophet of God the Father and God the Son?  Well, our Lord explains in Gospel:  The Father and I are one.  John is a prophet of the Most Holy Trinity because in the baptism of Christ, the Holy Spirit descends upon him in bodily form as a dove, and the paternal voice came from heaven:  “Thou art my beloved Son, with thee I am well pleased” (Lk 3:22).

If John is a prophet of the Most High, we the baptized are worshipers of the Most High.  The Roman Canon prays for “omnibus cultoribus”:  for all right-believing worshipers of the catholic and apostolic faith.  Our first duty as baptized Catholics, our greatest privilege, our highest calling – is to be worshipers of God, adorers of the Most High.  And in doing so, we prostrate ourselves before the Divine Majesty, imitating the angels and the saints.

John is a prophet of the Most High; we must be right-believing worshipers of the Most High God.

Then, what they will this child be?  He will be the forerunner, for he will go before the Lord to prepare his ways.  John is the one who runs before; Jesus Christ is the giant who comes forth from the bridal chamber of the Virgin’s womb, and rejoices to run his course (Ps 18).  What is the course?  What is this race?  It is the path leading to the cross, which the baptized must run as well.  St. Paul says, on the verge of being martyred:

I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race.  I have kept the faith.  Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord will award to me on that Day (2 Tim 4:7-8).

John is the forerunner, Christ is the giant who runs his course; we must be formed as athletes of Christ, well-trained to run the glorious race.

And then what will this child be?  He will be the friend of the Bridegroom.  Christ is the Bridegroom, the Bride is the Church.  John explains:

He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice, therefore this joy of mine is now full (Jn 3:29).

We who have been baptized are “children of the wedding feast”.  In one of the parables, Christ says: “Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?”  The Greek for “wedding guests” is “children of the wedding feast”.  Children of the bridegroom and the bride, for we are born of the virginal womb of the church, the baptismal font.

The bridegroom is Son of God by nature; the children of the bridegroom are sons by adoption – Filii in Filio – sons in the Son.

As we grow in the faith, we become not only children, but friends, for Christ said: “I have called you friends”.  John is the friend of the bridegroom, Christ is the bridegroom; and we are children of the wedding feast.

So, what will this child be then?  He is the voice of one crying in the wilderness.  He is the voice, but Christ is the Word.  We, the baptized, are the Ear that listens to the Word.  St. Benedict begins the Rule by saying “Listen, my son, to the precepts of the Master, and incline the ear of your heart” (Prologue 1).  What does the voice say to the ear of our heart, except “He must increase, I must decrease” (Jn 3:30).

Here is a summary of the entire Christian life.  Our life project, you might say.  Love of God must increase; love of self must decrease.  Humility must increase; pride must decrease.  The new man must be born and grown; the old man must fade away and die.

Even the natural elements preach the same Gospel message to us.  For from the summer solstice, from the Birth of St. John the Baptist, the days begin to decrease.  From the winter solstice, the Nativity of our Lord, the days begin to increase.

What does this voice say?  He must increase; I must decrease.  What does the word say?  What does he say to the ear of our heart…to the most intimate core of who we are?  He says: “Listen now, and lay it up in your hearts.  You, too, are my beloved Son.”

New Mid-Year’s Resolutions

New Mid-Year’s Resolutions
by Andy Milam

Most Catholics in the world would love to grow in their relationship with Our Lord. People have a genuine desire to grow in holiness, even if they are not able to articulate their desires for it. On New Year’s Day many people re-evaluate their lives. They examine how their lives were and make resolutions about how the next year can be the best year! Weight loss and eating right will top people’s lists. But why not make some spiritual resolutions as well? Examine how your spiritual life has been and make some sort of resolution starting today.  It’s never too late, even if we’re starting in July!

All too often, when we make resolutions we make too many. Instead of thinking of 5-10 resolutions, why not focus on just one or two? Also, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Once we begin to fail at our goals, we become discouraged and ultimately give up! If you are interested in igniting your spiritual life, here are a few simple suggestions for some resolutions to a new life during the second half of the year:

Patron Saint for the [New] Year

It is a tradition for people to choose a patron saint for the New Year.  It’s better late than never to pick one for the remainder of this year.  Some people do this by putting several names in a hat and drawing one, but maybe you would like to develop a devotion to a particular saint. St. Faustina wrote of this practice:

“There is a custom among us of drawing by lot, on New Year’s Day, special Patrons for ourselves for the whole year. In the morning, during meditation, there arose within me a secret desire that the Eucharistic Jesus be my special Patron for this year also, as in the past. But, hiding this desire from my Beloved, I spoke to Him about everything else but that. When we came to refectory for breakfast, we blessed ourselves and began drawing our patrons. When I approached the holy cards on which the names of the patrons were written, without hesitation I took one, but I didn’t read the name immediately as I wanted to mortify myself for a few minutes. Suddenly, I heard a voice in my soul: ‘I am your patron. Read.’ I looked at once at the inscription and read, ‘Patron for the Year 1935 – the Most Blessed Eucharist.’ My heart leapt with joy, and I slipped quietly away from the sisters and went for a short visit before the Blessed Sacrament, where I poured out my heart. But Jesus sweetly admonished me that I should be at that moment together with the sisters. I went immediately in obedience to the rule.”

If there is a saint that you have been fond of, why not learn more about them this year? Ask for their intercession daily. Want a random saint? The internet is full of stories about the lives of obscure saints! You are bound to find one! Want to know who a patron saint is of something? Google it. Saints are our friends in heaven who pray for us. For me, I’ve dedicated the year to St. Josemaria Escriva and the Venerable Fulton J. Sheen.

Read the Scriptures

There are many books out there that promote reading the whole bible in a year. Those readings are really long for each day—averaging 20 minutes. Maybe you don’t have time for that much reading. Why not dust off your bible, and begin reading the Gospels? You could start with Matthew, but don’t become discouraged with the genealogy of Jesus! I promise you it gets better!

Choose one of the four gospels and read small excerpts each day. The RSV-CE has headings of stories (called pericopes). Read a small snippet, 5-10 verses a day. You will learn more about Our Lord, and you will come into contact with the living Word of God.

Pray a Decade of the Rosary or the Angelus

Many people want to have a stronger devotion to Mary. Maybe 20 minutes of praying the rosary is a lot of time. (You could pray in your car with a rosary cd or rosary app). Some people find five decades to be a lot! Why not pray a decade a day? In five days’ time you will have completed one set of mysteries. Then begin again. There is power in the Hail Mary prayer — each time we ask Mary to pray for us “now and at the hour of death”. I don’t know about you, but I need the Madonna’s prayers right now, and especially at death.

If the rosary doesn’t appeal to you, there are many other Marian devotions. The Angelus is quite simple and can be prayed once a day or three times (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). Find the Marian devotion that suits you and go with it.

Do Spiritual Reading

There are treasuries of spiritual books out there and reading a small portion for five minutes a day can be of great benefit. St. Therese of Lisieux’s Story of a Soul is a favorite for many! Maybe you are attracted to the Divine Mercy devotion, and would like to read the Diary of Faustina. The saints have written many books that will surely lift you up. Spiritual masters note that when we do not do spiritual reading, our spiritual lives begin to lag. Pick up a book today!

Listen to Catholic CDs or Radio

Lighthouse Catholic Media produces many CDs about the Catholic life. Many parishes (including St. Anthony’s!) make these CDs available in their vestibules for a small donation. Consider listening to a CD each month. Lighthouse Catholic Media makes this easy by offering a small monthly subscription service. Listening to these CDs will bring you to a greater understanding of your Catholic faith.

In addition to CDs, most cities throughout the US have Catholic Radio, be it Iowa Catholic Radio, Relevant Radio, Radio Maria or EWTN Radio. Take a listen and you will see how adding a Catholic culture to your life will make a positive difference.

Pray Before and After Meals

As a young person, you might have prayed simple, catchy prayers before meals. Each of us should be grateful when we sit down for a meal because there are many in the world who go hungry each day. If you don’t regularly express gratitude to God for the food you have received, consider starting. When we give thanks before and after meals we cultivate an attitude of gratitude which will pervade beyond the food we eat into every aspect of our lives.

Do a Nightly Examination of Conscience

Before we go to Confession, it is recommended that we examine our consciences. Many pamphlets exist that help us to do this. One spiritual practice employed by some is a nightly examination of conscience. In addition to calling to mind one’s failings of the day, a person also recalls the blessings of the day — how God was at work in their life.  Consider pausing each night before bed, and reflecting on the movements of your day. Be thankful. Be contrite. Ask God for help in whatever tomorrow will bring.

In addition to our physical health conscious goals, we must also be conscious of our spiritual life when making our annual resolutions. There are many other suggestions — like going to a daily Mass once a week, frequenting Confession once a month, etc.

The remainder of this year can be a time to grow in holiness. It begins with a simple goal and not biting off more than you can chew. Together, let us all strive to love the Lord more each day this year by putting Him at the center of our life.


Andy Milam is the Coordinator of Public Relations, Marketing, Fundraising and Tourism at the ‎Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption, an active member of the Knights of Columbus, and the Liturgical Coordinator for Una Voce Des Moines.

Hebdomades Octo

by Dr. Kevin Kilcawley, PsyD

Last year, my family accepted a challenge: attend the Tridentine Mass for eight consecutive weeks. The challenge came from a podcast from Fr. Chad Ripperger, who proposes that when it comes to liturgy, an invitation can be more efficacious than an argument:  instead of telling we should show. Fr. Ripperger advises that we invite a person to attend the Tridentine Mass for eight consecutive weeks, then have him or her return to the Novus Ordo to reflect on the differences.

Why eight weeks?

Our sensibilities and dispositions change as we develop new habits and routines; three to eight weeks is a good measure of how long it may take to build a new habit.  One may ask: why it’s important to change our sensibilities? I believe what often turns people away from the Tridentine Mass has nothing to do with a lack of intellectual formation, and everything to do with the formation of senses. Or rather, how one is inclined towards sensible objects:  what attracts or repels us.

Prior to the challenge, my family and I had attended the Tridentine Mass on a handful of occasions, but never consistently. Honestly, each time I went, I felt lost and confused, not knowing what to do or say next. My senses had difficulty apprehending: the prolonged periods of silence, the whispered prayers by the priest at the foot of the altar, the sounds of chanting coming from the schola, attending to an unknown language; the list could go on. I would then return to the Novus Ordo and my senses would welcome the familiarity.

My Experience

During the eight week challenge, there was no returning. For about two weeks, the same experience surfaced: not knowing how to participate, not knowing what part of the Mass the priest was saying, and not knowing how to respond.

The turning point in helping me recognize a fundamental aspect to the eight week challenge was the idea of passive participation.  We have to be receptive in order to allow our sensibilities to be changed. During the first two weeks, I was imposing the familiar onto the new, the Novus Ordo onto the Tridentine Mass. In other words, I was too focused on what to do; being overly concerned with a more active participation.

By adopting a passive mindset, it allowed my senses to also become passive, as they naturally should be.  Our senses receive reality, they don’t impose on it. As each week progressed, parts of the Mass became familiar. More importantly, my experience attending Mass in general changed; my participation was to *rest* in the Mass, instead of acting in the Mass. As a result, there was a natural adoption of learning the responses and identifying and recognizing the parts of the liturgy; just as a child naturally develops a language just by being receptive.

And now?

Fr. Ripperger asks, once completing the challenge, to reflect upon the Tridentine Mass and the Novus Ordo and notice the differences. The dispositions I developed during the challenge instilled in me an attraction towards sacred silence and mystery.

What once caused confusion and feeling lost, instead was now bringing me deeper into the Mass. Now that the challenge is over, my senses do not find the Novus Ordo as ‘familiar’ as they once did.



Dr. Kevin Kilcawley is a clinical psychologist and founder of Integrative Psychology Services. He seeks to improve the practice of modern psychology with a holistic and Thomistic understanding of the human person, where mental health means more than just the absence of symptoms – it is a life engaged in what is true, good and beautiful.

Suggestions for Those New to the Latin Mass

The following guest post was written by Father Eric Andersen, pastor of St. Stephen Catholic Church in Portland, Oregon. St. Stephen’s is a parish which offers both forms of the Roman Rite.

Many Catholics do not know their liturgical heritage. Experiencing a Solemn Traditional Latin Mass for the first time can seem so unfamiliar. At first, one might feel disoriented. What is going on? How do I participate?

If you are new to the Latin Mass, my recommendation to you is not to worry about how to participate. Put down the booklet all together. Watch and listen in the silence and let your prayer arise. Have no expectations. Let yourself be surprised. Let the Holy Spirit be your guide. Treat this time like a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament. Realize that during this Holy Hour, something magnificent is happening: Jesus Christ, the High Priest, is offering the Holy Sacrifice.

As you observe in silence, get the big picture first. You know more than you think. You already know the basic structure of the Mass: Procession, Incensing of altar, Kyrie, Gloria, Opening Prayer, readings, Sermon, Credo, Offertory, more incense, Preface, Sanctus, Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I in silence), Pater Noster (Our Father), Agnus Dei, Communion, Ablutions (purifying the vessels), Closing Prayer, Blessing, Recession.

There are some other moments you might not be so familiar with, such as the Sprinkling Rite, the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar and the Last Gospel (The Prologue of St. John). Observe them. Take it all in and get the big picture. Don’t worry about what to say or do. Just follow the directives to sit, stand, or kneel as they are given. If you know the chants and responses, sing along. Otherwise, don’t worry about it at this point.

After one or two Masses participating in this way, then pick up and read through the missalette before the Mass starts. Look at the basic structure of the Mass so you know ahead of time what your road map will be. Once you know where you are going, an appropriate way to participate is to pray the Mass like the Divine Office, silently praying the words in English, while the priest prays them quietly in Latin.

If I could not hear anything, I would still know exactly where the priest was in the Mass by watching it. Whereas, if I were to attend the modern Roman Rite of the Mass, without hearing anything, I would need a translator using sign language, or pointing to the right place in the booklet, to tell me what was happening at any moment in the Mass. Why is that?

The reason is that the modern Roman Rite relies upon the spoken word. On the other hand, the Traditional Roman Rite communicates on various non-linguistic levels, relying heavily on ceremony to communicate what is happening. The spoken words are veiled behind a sacred language, and also veiled in silence because the Canon is prayed in a whisper. Fr. James W. Jackson, FSSP writes:

“The chants of the Sanctus are followed by profound silence, the first time in the Mass for silence of this depth––silence from the priest and silence from the faithful. This calls to mind not only the high priest of old going into the Holy of Holies alone, but also that the carrying of the Cross has come to an end, and Christ is now nailed to it.…The silence of the whole congregation––even if there are priests in attendance or if a bishop is attending––humbles us, as it is symbolic of the fact that none of the apostles or disciples raised their voices in defense of Christ at any time during His Passion” (Nothing Superfluous, p. 200).

Go see for yourself, and let the Traditional Latin Mass surprise you.

Originally published at

A Monastic Reflection on our Spiritual Battle During Lent

(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.

Two Armies

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:

  1. 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!”
  2. 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!”
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.)

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