New Icon of Bl. Fr. Jacques Hamel

This is going around online and is worthy of sharing:

Blessed Fr. Jacques Hamel, now considered a martyr by the pope, was the French priest who was murdered during Mass by two men who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. Before having his throat cut by a large knife, Fr. Hamel is reported saying “Go away Satan!” which is written in French on the beautiful icon above, “SATAN VA!”

Bl. Jacques Hamel, ora pro nobis! ☩

Rereading Mere Christianity – Yet Another Update

As I make my way through the fourth book of C.S. Lewis’ epic Mere Christianity, I find yet another great analogy-filled quote worth sharing (although the entire book is a quote worth sharing).

Good things as well as bad, you know, are caught by a kind of infection, if you want to get warm you must stand near the fire: if you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them. They are not a sort of prize which God could, if He chose, just hand out to anyone. They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very centre of reality. If you are close to it, the spray will wet you: if you are not, you will remain dry. Once a man is united to God, how could he not live forever? Once a man is separated from God, what can he do but wither and die?

Photographs of the “Underground” Catholic Church in China

I recently came across the following photos of something I had only read about before: China’s ‘Underground’ Catholic Church. Since the State is hostile to Roman Catholicism, China’s Roman Catholics must receive the sacraments and attend Mass in hiding. The photos are captivating. The photos come from photographer Lu-Nan who risked his life by shooting a photo documentary on the Underground Church.

Let the following photos remind you of how good we have it…and what we are allowing slip from our grasp in many Western countries.

Quoting Gretchen Filz:

Persecution against Christians in China is now at a new high. This month news hit that Chinese authorities arrested a Vatican-appointed bishop, and this week the Chinese government issued new regulations aimed “to suppress all unofficial religious activities via dispersing Christian house churches, silencing Tibetan and Xinjiang separatists and undermining the Vatican’s influence on Chinese Catholics.” Read more from ChinaAid.

There is, of course, a history of tension between the Vatican and the Chinese government, between the underground Catholic Church in China and the state-approved “Catholic Patriotic” churches. Yet, the atheistic Communist country continues to explode with enormous numbers of practicing Catholics.

Despite the intense crackdown by the totalitarian goverment, Christianity is growing tremendously. It is estimated that there are 12 million Catholics in China, and soon there will be more practicing Christians in China than there are in the United States. It is predicted that Christianity is growing so rapidly in the country that China is on course to become the ‘world’s most Christian nation’ within 15 years.

Here are some photos:

CHINA. Shaanxi Province. 1992. In China, the number of the ordained is far smaller than to the Catholic population. Sometimes a Father must hear nearly a thousand confessions.
“In China, the number of the ordained is far smaller than to the Catholic population. Sometimes a Father must hear nearly a thousand confessions.”

 

CHINA. Shaanxi Province. 1995. Mass is given in a member's residence in a village with no local church. Mass in a family house is officially prohibited by the Government, but the 'unofficial' churches take the risk.
“Mass is given in a member’s residence in a village with no local church. Mass in a family house is officially prohibited by the Government, but the ‘unofficial’ churches take the risk.”

 

CHINA. Yunnan Province. 1996. A priest consecrated bread signifying the body of Jesus Christ. Behind him are members of the church.
“A priest [carries] consecrated bread signifying the body of Jesus Christ. Behind him are members of the church.”
“All 20 families in this remote village are Catholic, but as there is no Father in their village they gather every Sunday and chant and pray together.”

 

“Sister Maria with an orphan, whom she has adopted. The baby must have been a “Chaoshengzi”, the second child of a ‘one child family’ policy. In this village, if a “Chaoshengzi” is found, the parents are fined 3000 Yuan. Those who have adopted “Chaoshengzi” are also fined. Sister Maria helplessly hid the babies in a sheep barn, or left them in the care of distant families, but authorities still came to investigate her upon hearing a rumour. The Sister insisted that the babies had died, and she was finally released. Sister Maria is a Sister in laity, and she looks after the villagers who are ill, baptizes villagers and devotes herself to other religious activities voluntarily.”
“A Father gives a ceremony to the ill, who are bedridden.”

 

An 81 year old believer, Ren-Zhongzin, became paralysed on one side. She begged the village Father to give her a “final blessing” because she was close to death. Chinese Catholics are less afraid of death than other Chinese; they regard death not as the end of life, but the turning point, and they believe that the soul remains eternal. What they are truly afraid of is not death itself, but when the soul does not reach heaven.

 

An 8-day-old baby is baptised. Under government law, it is forbidden to baptise anyone who is under 18 years old. This law is upheld in urban parishes, but in rural villages, the rule is ignored both by the ‘official’ and the ‘unofficial’ church.

 

An old woman saying a prayer before her meal.”

 

A Catholic family eats dinner

 

A Catholic couple prays before going to sleep.”

 

Catholic priest doing confession before the mass at home”

 

Bishop Fan Yu Fei is considered by the State a bishop of an “Unofficial Church”. Here he is blessing a man who is ill. Because he belongs to a church not sanctioned by the government, “he was always under government surveillance”. He was “suddenly and arbitrarily” locked up for five months and eventually died from a “sudden heart problem”.

 

“Praying for an illegal priest who just died.”

See all the photos here. ☩

Reconciling the Two Forms of the Latin Rite – is it Possible?

Recently the UK’s Catholic Herald reported on Cardinal Sarah’s article in the French publication La Nef wherein he describes his desire for a “reform of the reform” with an emphasis on reconciliation between the two liturgical forms of the Latin rite. It came on the heels of the tenth anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI’s moto proprio Summorum Pontificum which liberated the traditional Latin Mass across the globe. The fact Cardinal Sarah is discussing this is great, it’s wonderful to have cardinals discussing the merits of the Extraordinary Form (EF) in positive ways. However, I don’t believe what he proposes would work. Let’s look at what His Eminence said from the article above and then some of the reasons, as laid out by Joseph Shaw also of the Catholic Herald, why it isn’t likely to work.

Quoting from the Herald with my own abridgment and emphasis:

Cardinal Sarah wrote in favour of the “mutual enrichment” of the two forms of the Roman Rite, a phrase of Benedict XVI’s arguing that both forms have riches that would enhance the other if incorporated [in his moto proprio].

…this has been interpreted in EF circles in a mostly unilateral way: the OF ought to adapt the practices of the EF. Cardinal Sarah is certainly in favour of this – he has argued in the past for ad orientem celebration of the OF, greater use of Latin, and more periods of silence, including some of the priestly prayers. In La Nef, he goes further, recommending that Holy Communion be received kneeling and on the tongue; that the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar be restored at the beginning of Mass; and that the priests keep united after the consecration those fingers which have touched the sacred species.

In order to faithfully apply Benedict’s direction of “mutual enrichment” between the two forms, the cardinal suggests the possibility of the following:

Sarah proposes that efforts be made to have a shared calendar and a shared lectionary, so that both the EF and OF would celebrate more feasts together and have the same Scripture readings at Mass.

…EF devotees often speak about the simplified OF calendar as being too banal – “Ordinary Time” instead of Sundays after Pentecost – and consider it a mistake to have abandoned Passiontide and the octave of Pentecost

For the 10 years since Summorum Pontificum, those who prefer the EF have expected such an attitude from the OF. Cardinal Sarah now suggests that it is required of both clans, united in one Church, around one altar.

When I was considering making the switch from a very good OF parish (which included chant, Latin ordinaries, communion at the altar rail, and even ad orientem) to the EF parish just down the road, one of the biggest hurdles to me, at the time, was the fact the calendar and lectionary were different. I didn’t like that if I went to the EF parish one Sunday and then had to go to the OF parish much closer to my home (not the aforementioned one) the following Sunday, there would be a feeling of discontinuity. I thought the gap in feasts, calendar, and readings erected a wall between Catholics who should be united. I started thinking the two forms should be reconciled somehow without having an opinion on how or being terribly familiar with the EF lectionary or calendar.

After becoming quite familiar, now, with how the EF works, I still do think reconciliation would be in the best interest of the Church. However, I am convinced this can best be done, contrary to what Cardinal Sarah posits, in one direction back to the EF. It has become clear that the cycles and lectionary of the EF are simply superior for a number of reasons. Most of these reasons coincidentally are laid out in the next Catholic Herald article from which I will quote from below (abridged and with my emphasis):

Why Cardinal Sarah’s liturgical ‘reconciliation’ plan won’t work

The new lectionary is sometimes held up as obviously superior to the old, but not everyone committed to the reformed Mass agrees. The Toronto Oratorian Fr Jonathan Robinson wrote (The Mass and Modernity, 2005, p332):

I think the diversity, rather than enriching people, tends to confuse them… This may be because the selections, as has been noted by others, were drawn up more to satisfy the sensibilities of liturgical scholars than on traditional liturgical principles.

…can the lectionaries of the two Forms simply by swapped over?

The short answer is ‘no’. To take the most obvious problem, the 1969 Lectionary has no readings for the season of Septuagesima, because that season does not exist in the 1969 calendar.

Variations on this problem arise throughout the Church’s year. Many of the EF’s proper texts of feast days, and a good many Sundays, refer to the readings. The choice of readings in the Ordinary Form is so different from those in the Extraordinary Form that the discordance would be particularly jarring.

Thus, on Corpus Christi, the ancient Mass gives us a reading from on the danger of the unworthy reception of Holy Communion (1 Corinthians 11:27-9). St Paul’s message was excluded completely from the new Lectionary: it is not found even on a weekday…

…Something else they might like to consider is the very different role of feastdays in the Extraordinary Form. Moving some to the same date as the OF might sound innocuous enough, but a wholesale revision would endanger the distinctive character of this Form, whose weekday celebrations are not distinguished by a daily Scripture-reading cycle, but by large numbers of often very ancient feast days. Many of the saints commemorated are invoked in the liturgy itself, in the Canon or in the Litany of the Saints. Removing them from the calendar, but not from the liturgical texts, would not strengthen the Extraordinary Form, but simply make its message—about the communion of saints, intercession, and continuity—harder to discern.

These are all important points which most people who become familiar with the EF by and large recognize. Typically, anyone who considers the OF lectionary superior only does so because of the sheer amount of scripture contained within the cycle. There are two readings plus a Gospel reading. Of course more scripture is never bad, but the Mass isn’t supposed to be the only place a Catholic encounters sacred scripture. The EF uses scripture as a beautiful frame to the day’s respective liturgy instead of the other way around. The other purpose of scripture is is to instruct the faithful, so what better than the epistles which are essentially teaching documents. That is why in the EF there is an epistle reading and a Gospel reading. The epistle reading is typically concise, impactful, and offers a great springboard for a sermon. Furthermore, the new lectionary comes after the unfortunate removal of many important readings which were deemed to be inconvenient, demanding, or politically incorrect as pointed out by removing any reference to the damnation of receiving Holy Communion in an unworthy state.

The new calendar is problematic too, it’s severely lacking. Not only is Septuagesima replaced with a snippet of “ordinary time”, but the entire concept of ordinary time is odd and lackluster. Much more rich are the traditional seasons of the Nativity, Easter, and Pentecost. Better does the traditional calendar reflect times of penance and feasts too. The feast days are more than just times on the old calendar to celebrate, the entire daily Mass revolves around the nature of the respective saint’s character.

Nonetheless, it it is important to heed the call of Benedict suggesting for a “mutual enrichment”. Perhaps there are some things which the EF could better incorporate which might help a culture so far removed from these rituals to come to appreciate it more. For instance, and these are just off the top of my head, there is no ban on singing with the choir at an EF Mass…something our pastor reminds us of often…whether that be the Asperges Me or Salve Regina. Or perhaps this means holding hands during the Pater Noster. Okay JUST KIDDING ON THAT ONE, just seeing if you’re still reading. It could be enriching to somehow incorporate newer saints into the traditional calendar such as St. Gianna Molla, St. John Paul II, St. Maximilian Kolbe, or St. Mother Teresa.

It would be lovely if something could be done to merge the two forms and I thank God for Cardinal Sarah and his public thoughts on this matter. It’s just that in order to do this, the OF has much more to be “enriched” than the EF before reconciliation happens. ☩


UPDATE: Here is Fr. Z’s take on the two articles referenced above. which reminds me of a point I forgot to make in my original post. Even if the suggestions of tweaking the EF calendar and lectionary have merit, given all the chaos going on in Rome right now, with all the unfaithful, heinous bishops and cardinals who wish to mold the Church into the likeness of prevailing culture, perhaps we should hold off on even considering opening up the EF right now to be tampered with. Cardinal Sarah may caution the faithful not to treat the EF liturgy as a “museum object” but I think it is far more likely the faithful consider it a treasure. ☩☩

Rereading Mere Christianity – Another Update

As I have now declared to the universe, I am rereading Mere Christianity. While the entire book is quotable, I came across another one I thought worth sharing from today:

“Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.”

-C.S. Lewis