Category Archives: Tradition

Statues and Sacred Images inside a Church

On Thanksgiving Day, the priest directed the attention of the congregation to the painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe leaning against the flagstone wall near the sacristy. Father wanted to hang the painting up but first had to get permission from the Diocesan Office of Sacred Liturgy. So this raised the question about why the Church is taking great care to monitor the use of holy art.

Holy images in a church can enhance our awareness of the sacredness of the Mass and serve to inspire us with Christian models who dedicated their lives to Jesus.

The Catholic Cathedral of St. Louis in New Orleans depicts Sts. Peter and Paul, both facing the tabernacle with a Latin inscription above saying, “Behold, the Bread of Angels”

When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, He directed us to worship Him alone, “Thou shalt not have strange gods before me. Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath it, nor of those things that are in the waters under the earth. Thou shall not adore them, nor serve them” -Exodus 20:3-5

The National Cathedral(Anglican) in Washington has several stained glass windows depicting the life of General Robert E. Lee, the peaceful use of nuclear technology, and a depiction of the moon containing an actual reliquary with moon rocks.

The very first Christians did not view the use of holy images as a violation of this commandment. The Catacombs of St. Callixtus in Rome which depict cave like paintings of Christ as a lamb and the celebration of the Eucharist are examples of this. In fact, some 3rd century Jewish catacombs have  been known to feature similar paintings but without the Christian overtones(Which is not evidence of justification, but merely an interesting note).

Martin Luther the Protestant Reformer even said, “The custom of holding a crucifix before a dying person has kept many in the Christian faith and has enabled them to die with a confident faith in the crucified Christ.”

God is omnipresent and so we are always in His presence, but churches offer a particular place of dedicated prayer and worship. The purpose of having sacred images and statues in Church is NOT for worship. These images are meant to enhance our awareness of God’s presence and of the many paths there are to reach his Son. As such, they should never be so numerous that they distract from the liturgy. The Cathedral of St. Louis shown above demonstrates a setting with a moderate number of statues, and note that they are all oriented slightly toward the tabernacle.

This critique is only for the purposes of respectfully examining how art can be used incorrectly. The National Cathedral(Anglican) in Washington DC is modeled after the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris; however, the images and statues are half centered on God and half on man, which is a clear deviation from the intended purpose of the building. For example, the statue of Martin Luther(reformer) facing Desiderius Erasmus(reformer who defended primacy of the pope) can insight divisive feelings of “us vs. them” rather than directing attention to any Christian virtue the men may have exhibited.

There is also a large stained glass window commemorating the landing on the moon with a reliquary containing moon rocks which is not being used in any way to promote prayerful adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, or supplication.

The bottom line is that sacred art can be used to enhance our awareness of Christian virtue and place us in a mindset to pray a better prayer, but sacred images and statues must be carefully placed so that they do not distract from the greater honor and glory of God in the blessed sacrament.

A.M.D.G.

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St. Albert “The Great”

The Great is an exceptional title given very sparingly and only by tradition in the Catholic Church. It is unofficial in a sense that there is no special canonization process to receive this title; however, although it stems from a nickname given by scholars or overtime by popular use, the Vatican has been known to reference it in official documents which in a sense makes it official. Cardinal Angelo Sodano reference John Paul the Great in a Vatican document which acts like an endorsement of the title.

S. Albertus Magnus (1193-1280)

Today is the feast day of St. Albert the Great, a doctor of the Church. Albert was born in present day Germany sometime around 1193 A.D. He was a Dominican priest who was curious about philosophy, world religions, and the physical sciences. St. Albert engaged Islamic scholars in academic critiques and was the teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas. In a spirit of humility, he refused to ride on the horse he was entitled to as Bishop of Regensburg.

A.M.D.G.

When in Rome, do as the Romans unless…

When we stray from the teachings of the Church or even reject one of them, we now subject ourselves to a faith by men instead of one for us by Christ.

St. Ambrose was Bishop of Milan in the 4th century and is hailed as one of the great doctors of the Church. He warned against the liturgy becoming so rigid that the people are no longer served by it, but he never advocated straying from the faith or the Mass as the first Christians celebrated it. He coined the phrase “When in Rome, do as the Romans.”

The official banner of the City of Milan which depicts the city’s patron saint, Ambrose. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milan still celebrates the “Ambrosian Rite” and its own liturgical schedule with the permission of the Vatican.

In this past week there has been a lot of attention in the media reflecting on Church teachings and public opinion. Many in the secular world expressed that they were deeply touched by the compassion the Anglican Church exhibited when they approved the new liturgy for same-sex marriage on July 9th.

In the Washington Post on July 12, a Catholic school teacher complained her conscience was violated  at St. Anne’s Parish by the Catholic Diocese of Arlington because she and her coworkers were asked to reaffirm their faith in an oath. After being asked to profess her faith, she resigned from her post and cited the male-only priesthood as one particular teaching she disagrees with.

Both stories are examples of people who really desire to see greater pastoral care which is charitable and compassionate but in this case it was misguided. Unfortunately, both stories are actually total abandonment of pastoral care. In the pastoral method of Saint Ambrose, the liturgy was prayed and preached in a way that the public could understand better. Saint Ambrose never modified the teachings of the faith or the necessary practices of the Mass in order to open the Church to greater numbers.

When we stray from the teachings of the Church or even reject one of them, we now subject ourselves to a faith by men instead of one for us by Christ.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16

We should be inspired by the early Christians who felt deeply unpopular and have confidence knowing that we are called to be the light in the world – even when the world seems so dark.

A.M.D.G.

Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul

Today is the great Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul the Apostles. The readings today inspire humility and to a life of constant conversion toward Jesus Christ.

In the Gospel, we receive confirmation from Jesus Christ that Peter is the head of His Church here on earth.

And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build my Church,
and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.
I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of heaven.
Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven;
and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” – Today’s Gospel from Matthew 16

The statue of St. Peter was decorated this morning in Rome’s Basilica of St. Peter for the Papal Mass. He can be seen wearing the Papal Tiara and, stole, and red cope.

But this story would not be as great as it is without first recalling Peter’s denial of Jesus during the Passion. Recalling Peter back to His true mission, He asked Peter to reaffirm three times, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. For even great sinners, as we all are, can be fully reconciled with God and be given the keys to the kingdom.

In 64 A.D., Peter was jailed in Rome. (His jailers, Sts. Processus and Martinian later converted). To Saint Peter’s own disbelief, angels led him out of prison on the eve of his trial. Peter then began to flee the city to avoid further persecution but saw Jesus along the way. Jesus told Peter that He would return to Rome to be crucified again essentially saying ‘if you won’t, I must do it again’ – thus giving Peter the strength to go back and continue converting people to Christianity even at the risk of crucifixion, which happened later that year.

The tomb of St Paul can be seen between the base of the two candles just above the railing.

Saint Paul who was once a great persecutor of Christians, converted and became an unashamed promoter of Jesus Christ.  We are called to be the light of the world, but it is not without consequence. In today’s second reading, Paul tells us of his impending martyrdom

“I, Paul, am already being poured out like a libation,
and the time of my departure is at hand.
I have competed well; I have finished the race;
I have kept the faith.” II Timothy 4:6

The faith in Jesus Christ is a sustaining one. And even in the hardest of times, these men found their courage in Christ and remind us to do the same. Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.

A.M.D.G.

Virtual Tour of Christian of Rome (Part 1, Stops 1-3)

Beati, qui persecutionem patiuntur propter iustitiam (Blessed are those who endure persecution for the sake of justice Matt 5:11)

  1. Colosseum, Forum Romanum – Persecution of Christians circa 45AD-317AD
  2. Chiesa Domine Quo Vadis (Church of “Where are you going, Lord). Where Jesus appeared to Peter in 64AD.
  3. San Pietro ad Vincoli, church that holds the chains of St. Peter from when he was in jail

Colosseum

This ancient stadium is now blackened by the exhaust of cars.

This site is in close proximity to the ancient Roman Forum. The Emperor Vespasian ordered the stadium constructed 72 years before the birth of Jesus Christ; however, he died before it was completed under the reign of his son, Emperor Titus, in the year 80 AD. It was he who inaugurated the stadium holding 50,000 spectators with 100 days of opening games.

Although many Christians were martyred only a few years after Jesus’ death, it was not until the year 108AD that bishop St. Ignatius of Antioch was consumed by lions in the Colosseum. The famous painting The Christian Martyr’s Last Prayer by Gerome depicts Christians praying together while their fellow martyrs  hang upon crosses in front of a lion.

Chiesa Domine Quo Vadis

In 64AD, tradition says tells us that St. Peter was fleeing Rome from imminent arrest and martyrdom. On this road, he saw Jesus and immediately said quo vadis meaning where are you going? Jesus then responded by telling Peter He was returning to Rome to be crucified again which gave St. Peter the courage to stop fleeing and face death upon a cross. Quo Vadis is now often used by the church as a slogan in promotion of vocations.

Further tradition says that Jesus left his footprint here, in which a copied slab is kept inside the church; however, there is speculation that these may actually be the footprints of a Roman soldier as part of a pagan tribute. St. Peter desired to be crucified upside down so as to not die in the same fashion as Jesus.

San Pietro ad Vincoli

This church, The Basilica of Saint Peter in Chains, opened in 439AD and contains the chains that held St. Peter in jail before his crucifixion. Each Cardinal of the Catholic Church is assigned a “titular basilica” (basilica in title) so  that in ceremony, he may be considered a member of the clergy of Rome. This basilica is assigned to Archdiocese of Washington’s Cardinal Donald Wuerl. In 533AD, Pope John II was elected Pope here. Michelangelo’s Moses is near the altar of this basilica.

A.M.D.G.

Sanctifying the Day with the Liturgy of the Hours

Many Catholics hunger to grow closer to God in their Christian faith by praying just as members of the early Church did. One way to do this is to sanctify the day with public prayer.

Public Prayer: There are two types of prayer in the Catholic Church: public and private. The word public refers to the church praying together as a whole. The Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours are the only two types of public prayer. In this post, the focus will be on the Liturgy of the Hours. This tradition has been around since the very early Church and was inspired by King David who said he praised God seven times a day in Psalm 119.

Who prays the Liturgy of the Hours? Anyone can pray the Liturgy; however, the priests and religious members of the Church are obligated to pray and to do so on behalf of the church. You may see priests carrying around a book(that isn’t the Bible) during their daily tasks. It is likely the breviary, which contains the psalms and readings that he must pray that day for the Liturgy of the Hours.

When and What: There are seven main hours: Morning, Day, Midday, Afternoon, Evening, Office of Readings, and Night.

The psalms and readings are structured and prayed systematically on a calendar with four-week cycles(a total of 150 Psalms). In the English translations, there are three volumes of the Liturgy of the Hours which correspond to the liturgical seasons. For those who are not obligated to pray, there is a book called “Christian Prayer” which contains Morning, Evening, and Night prayer in just one volume that will last you year-round.

Recommendations: As lay members of the Church, we are not obligated to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. If this will help you grow in Christ’s love, then definitely give it a try. Know that it will be a struggle to remain consistent as I and many others know from personal experience. For beginners, start with the book of Christian Prayer and only do one of the three forms(Morning, Evening, or Night).  The structure can also be confusing. I still struggle with it because of my inconsistencies. The best advice I can give you is ask a priest because he is likely very familiar with it. It is a beautiful prayer that many lay people in the Church enjoy praying.

A.M.D.G.

The Tridentine Rite Accentuates the Solemnity of the Eucharist

Image

The altar is set up for the traditional Latin Tridentine Rite Mass in a Vatican II era Church.

Tradition for the sake of tradition is folly. But, the guidance of sacred tradition can also be very powerful in our spiritual development and ensuring that we worship God as we should. The ordinary form of the Mass as we think of it today is known as the Novus Ordo. In this post, I explore the Tridentine Rite and how two of its detail oriented practices can accentuate the sacredness of the Eucharist.

The Tridentine Rite, which is in many ways unrecognizable to most Catholics now, was practiced from 1570 A.D. to 1969 A.D. and has been optional since 2007. There have been many liturgical abuses of the Tridentine Rite just as there have been for the Novus Ordo: i.e. reported cases of the priests murmuring the Latin words or skipping over parts of the Mass. BUT it has a lot of benefits, especially in accentuating the how solemn the Eucharist really is.

The Predella

Did you ever notice that at any Catholic Church, the altar is(or is supposed to be) at least one full step higher than the remainder of the sanctuary? In the Tridentine Rite, that step or platform on which the altar sits is called the predella. The priest, who acts in the person of Christ during Mass, steps down from that platform to give Communion to the people. In this action, we remember that God, in a profound act of charity and humility, came down from Heaven and became man. Jesus came to us just as He continues to do in the Eucharist.

Reception of Communion

The second practice I want to explore are the normal conditions for receiving the Eucharist in the Tridentine Rite which include kneeling during reception, receiving on the tongue, and a fast that began at Midnight prior to receiving the Eucharist.

“In fact, as His Eminence, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger has recently emphasized, the practice of kneeling for Holy Communion has in its favor a centuries-old tradition, and it is a particularly expressive sign of adoration, completely appropriate in light of the true, real and substantial presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ under the consecrated species.” -Archbishop Francesco Pio Tamburrino(EWTN)

In these modern days, the normal position to receive the Eucharist is standing and it must be received either the tongue or on the hand. Both are entirely acceptable and licit, but I personally enjoy receiving it on the tongue because it eliminates most accidental cases of particles of the most holy Eucharist ending up other than in our mouths. In just one particle of the Eucharist, there is the fullness of the physical presence of Jesus Christ’s flesh.

Personally, I believe that kneeling for Communion during the Novus Ordo is somewhat distracting, so it is good that we are instructed to make a sign of reverence BOTH before and after receiving the Eucharist(e.g.: bowing, making the sign of the cross). Genuflecting during the Mass itself is discouraged by the Church, but not prohibited. The Church does not tolerate denying Communion to those who genuflect before or kneel to receive(EWTN). They use the word “orthopraxy” which means that we should strive to make a correct action as opposed to simply an “orthodox” action (CUF).

As always, our desires for the correct practice of the Mass should be guided by our charitable desire to worship God as best as we can. Thank you for reading!

A.M.D.G.