Friday, February 27, 2015
The Sacred Lance and Nails (Friday after the 1st Sunday in Lent)

Image Source: Leo Reynold Photo of the Instruments of the Passion taken at Reepham, Norfolk, England, UK on June 10, 2006.

The Facebook Page "Restore the '54" produces an account for this unique feastday:

This Feast is found in the Missae pro Aliquibus Locis of the Roman Missal. "The Supreme Pontiff, Innocent VI, in his decree establishing the Feast and Office of the Lance and Nails, which pierced the body of our crucified Lord Jesus Christ, exhorts all the faithful to have a special veneration for, and devotion to, all the sacred instruments of our Savior's Passion. The following are his words: "We should honor the most holy Passion of our Lord and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, in such manner that, meditating on all the mysteries and merits of the same Passion, we venerate also each sacred instrument thereof. Then this holy and zealous Pontiff, coming more directly to the honor due to the lance and nails, says: "Although the lance and nails, and the other sacred instruments of the Passion, should be everywhere venerated by the faithful of Christ, and though every year the Church celebrates the solemn offices of the same Passion, yet we deem it proper and fitting that a special solemn feast should be instituted and celebrated in honor of those particular instruments of the Passion, more especially in those places wherein these salutary instruments are preserved. Hence we wish to encourage this devotion by special office and privileges. " (Innocent VI in Decret. de Fest. Lane, et Clav. Domini)."

The Lance, also known as the spear of Longinus is kept in the Vatican Basilica, given to Innocent VIII in 1492. The nails were kept with the Crown of Thorns, along with a small piece of the Lance of Longinus at Saint Chapelle, France and were subsequently lost during the French Revolution. The crown of thorns was the only relic saved and is now kept at Notre Dame Cathedral.

The Sacred Lance and Nails of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Friday after the First Sunday of Lent
Mass Said in Some Places

Introit: Ps. xxi: 17-18 et 15
They have pierced my hands and my feet: they have numbered all my bones: and I am poured out as water [Ps. Ibid., 15] My heart has become like wax melting away within my bosom. Glory be.... They have pierced.
O God, who in assuming flesh was afflicted by the Nails, and didst will to be wounded by the Lance for the salvation of the world: grant, we beseech Thee; that we who solemnly venerate the Nails and Lance on earth, may enjoy the glorious triumph of victory in heaven. Thou who livest and reignest.....
A Reading From The Prophet Zacharia
xii: 10-11; xiii: 6-7
Thus saith the Lord: And I will pour out upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace, and of prayers: and they shall look upon me, whom they have pierced: and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for an only son, and they shall grieve over him, as the manner is to grieve for the death of the firstborn. In that day there shall be a great lamentation in Jerusalem. And they shall say to him: What are these wounds in the midst of thy hands? And he shall say: With these I was wounded in the house of them that loved me. Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that cleaveth to me, saith the Lord of hosts: strike the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn my hand to the little ones: saith the Lord almighty.

Gradual: Ps. lxviii: 21-22
Insult has broken my heart, and I am weak, I looked for sympathy, but there was none; for comforters, and I found none. Rather they put gall in my food, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.
Tract: Isaias: liii: 4-5
Surely He hath borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows: and we have thought Him, as it were, a leper, and as one struck by God and afflicted. But He was wounded for our iniquities, He was bruised for our sins: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His bruises we were healed.
In Masses outside of Lent the tract is omitted and replaced by:
Alleluia, Alleluia. Hail, our King: Thou alone art merciful in spite of our errors: Obedient to the Father Thou wert led to be crucified, as a humble lamb to the slaughter. Alleluia

During Paschaltide:
Alleluia, Alleluia. Hail, our King: Thou alone art merciful in spite of our errors: Obedient to the Father Thou wert led to be crucified, as a humble lamb to the slaughter. Alleluia To Thee be glory, hosanna: to Thee be triumph and victory: to Thee be the highest praise and the crown of honor. Alleluia.
Gospel: John xix: 28-35

 The continuation of the holy Gospel according to John:
Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, said: «I thirst.» Now there was a vessel set there, full of vinegar. And they, putting a sponge full of vinegar and hyssop, put it to his mouth. Jesus therefore, when He had taken the vinegar, said: «It is consummated.» And bowing His head, He gave up the ghost. Then the Jews (because it was the parasceve), that the bodies might not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day (for that was a great sabbath day), besought Pilate that their legs might be broken: and that they might be taken away. The soldiers therefore came: and they broke the legs of the first, and of the other that was crucified with him. But after they were come to Jesus, when they saw that He was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers with a spear opened His side: and immediately there came out blood and water. And he that saw it hath given testimony: and his testimony is true.
Evil men rose up against Me: without mercy they sought to kill Me: they did not hesitate to spit in My face: with their lances they wounded Me, and they have struck all My bones.

Sanctify us O Lord, we beseech Thee, with this holy and immaculate evening sacrifice: which Thine only-begotten Son offered on the Cross for the salvation of the world. Thou who livest and reignest....
Preface of the Holy Cross
 It is truly meet and just, right and availing unto salvation, that we should in all times and in all places give thanks unto Thee, O holy Lord, Father almighty and everlasting God. Who didst set the salvation of mankind upon the tree of the Cross, so that whence came death, thence also life might rise again, and that he who overcame by the tree might also be overcome on the tree; through Christ our Lord. Through whom the angels praise Thy majesty, the dominations adore, the powers are in awe, the virtues of highest heaven and the blessed seraphim unite in blissful exultation. With them we praise Thee; grant that our voices too may blend, saying in adoring praise

Communion Hymn
The looked upon Him whom they have pierced, when they shook the foundations of the earth.

Lord Jesus Christ, who didst spontaneously offer Thyself on the Cross as an immaculate holocaust to God the Father; we beseech Thee; that from this same sacrifice we may obtain Thine indulgence, and eternal glory. Thou who livest and reignest with the same God the Father....
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Lenten Ember Day Fast is Upon Us

This Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday mark the Lenten Ember Days.  I've written on the Ember days many times previously so I will not rehash the same information.  Instead I will offer a new reflection.

In the Early Church, as in the practice still amongst some people in Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, fasting is done on Wednesdays and Fridays.  It is done on Wednesdays in memory of our Lord’s betrayal by Judas and on Friday, since it was on Friday that Christ died.

Fasting in Lent is an ancient practice with mention of it going back to at least the 2nd century.  St. Athanasius in 331 wrote strongly in support of this fast of 40 days, which at that time was before the required and stricter fast of Holy Week.

As of the reign of Pope St. Gregory the Great (590 – 604) there were six weeks of six days of fasting observed for Lent in Rome.  The result was 36 days of fasting.  As 40 is a Biblical number for fasting as observed in the Old Testament, the practice began of beginning Lent on the preceding Wednesday, that we know of as Ash Wednesday, in order for 40 days of Lenten fasting to be observed.

During this ancient time, the practice of fasting allowed only one meal a day to be eaten (as is the current practice); however, the meal was in these ancient times only to be eaten in the evening.

These days were at one time observed with a strict fast no more than one meal, without meat, dairy, oil, or wine. In the 10th century the custom of taking the only meal of the day at three o'clock was introduced. In the 14th century the meal was allowed at mid-day, and soon the practice of an evening collation (snack) became common. A morning collation was introduced in the early 19th century.

In the early 1900s, the Law of the Church required fasting on all days of Lent but abstinence from meat was required only on Fridays and Saturdays.  However, a common practice called partial abstinence was observed, which permitted meat only once a day at the principal meal.  Unique exceptions to what constituted meat differed in certain countries (e.g. capybara meat is permitted in South American countries while other meat is forbidden).  In such a way, the uniqueness of an individual culture is retained and still yet forms part of the One Body of Christ.

In the early 1900s there were additional days of fasting and/or abstinence in the year including the Ember Days, days of Advent, Vigils of important feastdays, and the like. Rogation Days in previous times were also commonly observed in such a manner. Advent fast was also part of Church Law.

See: The History of the Lenten Fast for more.

Ember Days, as explained by the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia:
Ember days (corruption from Lat. Quatuor Tempora, four times) are the days at the beginning of the seasons ordered by the Church as days of fast and abstinence. They were definitely arranged and prescribed for the entire Church by Pope Gregory VII (1073-1085) for the Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday after 13 December (S. Lucia), after Ash Wednesday, after Whitsunday, and after 14 September (Exaltation of the Cross). The purpose of their introduction, besides the general one intended by all prayer and fasting, was to thank God for the gifts of nature, to teach men to make use of them in moderation, and to assist the needy. The immediate occasion was the practice of the heathens of Rome. The Romans were originally given to agriculture, and their native gods belonged to the same class.
If you are not already fasting for the 40 days of Lent, please do try to join in the traditional Ember Day Lenten Fast.
Friday, February 20, 2015
Feast of the Crown of Thorns (Mass in Some Places)

This reliquary contains the Crown of Thorns of our Lord as recovered by King St. Louis IX.

The Friday after Ash Wednesday in the Traditional Missal before 1955 has a "Mass in Some Places" that may be said.  This special Mass is for the The Feast of the Crown of Thorns.  The Catholic Encyclopedia summarizes:

The first feast in honour of the Crown of Thorns (Festum susceptionis coronae Domini) was instituted at Paris in 1239, when St. Louis brought thither the relic of the Crown of Thorns, which was deposited later in the Royal Chapel, erected in 1241-8 to guard this and other relics of the Passion.  
The feast, observed on 11 August, though at first special to the Royal Chapel, was gradually observed throughout the north of France. In the following century another festival of the Holy Crown on 4 May was instituted and was celebrated along with the feast of the Invention of the Cross in parts of Spain, Germany, and Scandinavia. It is still kept in not a few Spanish dioceses and is observed by the Dominicans on 24 April.  
A special feast on the Monday after Passion Sunday was granted to the Diocese of Freising in Bavaria by Clement X (1676) and Innocent XI (1689) in honour of the Crown of Christ. It was celebrated at Venice in 1766 on the second Friday of March.  
In 1831 it was adopted at Rome as a double major and is observed on the Friday following Ash Wednesday. As it is not kept throughout the universal Church, the Mass and Office are placed in the appendices to the Breviary and the Missal. The hymns of the Office, which is taken from the seventeenth-century Gallican Breviary of Paris, were composed by Habert. The "Analecta hymnica" of Dreves and Blume contains a large number of rhythmical offices, hymns, and sequences for this feast.

I recommend the meditation on today's historic feast at The Guild of Blessed Titus from a 2013 post.  Also, the meditation shared on the Irish Dominican blog from 2010's Feast is also very worth reading this day as a source of meditation.


Grant, we beg, almighty God: that we, who in memory of the passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ do revere His thorny Crown on earth, by Him may deserve "to be crowned with glory and honour" (cf. Ps 8:6) in heaven: Who with Thee liveth and reigneth...
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Lent: Hold Fast to Strict Fasting for 40 Days

Our Lord tells us, as recorded in Scripture, "Unless you shall do penance, you shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3). And St. John the Baptist announced the coming of the Saviour with the ominous admonition, "Do penance: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matt. 3:2).

With regard to prayer, St. Paul tells us to "Pray without ceasing." (1 Thess. 5:17). And Our dear Lord advises us, "Amen, amen I say to you: if you ask the Father anything in my name, he will give it you." (John 16:23). Also He said, "If you abide in me [i.e., "live in Me," or "stay in the state of grace"], and my words abide ["live"] in you, you shall ask whatever you will, and it shall be done unto you." (John 15:7). Further, Our Lord has said, "Watch ye, therefore, praying at all times, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that are to come, and to stand before the Son of man." (Luke 21:36). And in the Book of Judith we read, "Know ye that the Lord will hear your prayers, if you continue with perseverance in fastings and prayers in the sight of the Lord." (Judith 4:11).

Our obligation to do apostolic work, no matter who we are, is seen in the general admonition of St. John the Baptist, "...make straight the way of the Lord..." (In. 1:23; Is. 40:3). The Church has used this counsel in her Advent liturgy, so we know it applies to all—at least to the extent that all must pray and do penance for the success of the Church's missionary activity, help support it financially—and wherever possible take an active part in the conversion or re-conversion of those we know.

"The observance of Lent is the very badge of Christian warfare. By it we prove ourselves not to be enemies of the cross of Christ. By it we avert the scourges of divine justice. By it we gain strength against the princes of darkness, for it shields us with heavenly help. Should mankind grow remiss in their observance of Lent, it would be a detriment to God's glory, a disgrace to the Catholic religion, and a danger to Christian souls. Neither can it be doubted that such negligence would become the source of misery to the world, of public calamity, and of private woe" (Pope Benedict XIV in 1741).

The primary purpose of Lent, of course, is to help us become truly holy—and we should work toward this goal during Lent by extra prayer, penance, good works, almsgiving, attendance at Mass and reception of the Sacraments (the chief sources of grace).

This Lent, observe 40 days of fasting and 40 days of abstaining from meat. 

For other penances, in addition to the fast, consider the following 20 PIOUS PRACTICES FOR CATHOLICS TO PRACTICE DURING LENT: Click here to continue reading...
Flight into Egypt (Mass in Some Places)

Today in the pre-1955 Traditional Catholic Missal is the Mass in Some Places (pro aliquibus locis) of The Flight Into Egypt.  In honor of this day, I share the following prayers and meditations in honor of this event in the life of our Blessed Mother Mary:

Flight Into Egypt by Jacob Jordaens

First Point

No sooner was Jesus born than He began to be persecuted by Herod, who then ruled over the Jews. This ambitious prince, hearing that the long-expected Messias was come into the world "to deliver His people, Israel," was seized with envy and alarm. He feared lest this Saviour should supplant him in his authority and usurp his throne; therefore he sought to destroy him whilst he was yet a helpless babe. When the wise men came to Jerusalem from the east, enquiring "Where is He who is born King of the Jews?" Herod, thinking the time had arrived to rid himself of his supposed rival, called them privately, and learned diligently of them at what time the star which guided them from the East had first appeared: then, sending them into Bethlehem, he said: "Go, and diligently enquire after the child; and when you have found Him, bring me word again, that I also may come and adore Him." He hoped, by this deceitful stratagem, to obtain possession of our Lord. But, like all God's enemies, in the long run he deceived himself; for our Lord's "time was not yet come " to be betrayed and put to death.

After the wise men had found Jesus, adored Him and presented before Him their choicest gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, they were warned by a token from God that they should not return to Herod. They therefore went back another way into their own country.

When the envious tyrant found that his impious plans were thus brought to nought, like Pharao, King of Egypt, he hardened his heart yet further, and formed the cowardly and savage design of slaying by the sword every male child in that part of the country from two years old and under. For he concluded from what the Magi had told him, that the Messias would surely be among the victims to his cruelty. But it is the extreme of folly for man to oppose the Creator and fight against his God. Here, again, Herod's wicked purposes are most wonderfully brought to nothing. He hoped by thus murdering all the male infants in and about Bethlehem, that Jesus would also be slain. But after the Magi had departed, an angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph, saying:

"Arise, and take the child and his mother, and fly into Egypt, and be there until I shall tell thee; for it will come to pass that Herod will seek the child to destroy Him."

And here let me contemplate the cause of Mary's second Dolour.

St. Joseph, obedient to the command of the Heavenly messenger, at once arose and hastened to the Blessed Virgin, telling her what had been made known to him. Then, indeed, it was that the second sword transfixed the heart of Mary. How bitter, exclaims St. John Chrysostom, must have been the pain which was excited in the heart of Mary when she heard of the exile of herself and Son!" And, indeed," says St. Alphonsus, "what greater tribulation could there be, than that a poor young mother should be forced to fly with her new-born babe far away from home, from friends to strangers, from the hallowed sanctuary of the Lord to the polluted temples of devils." It was at the dead of night that the Blessed Virgin heard from the lips of St. Joseph the afflicting news; and, to add to her grief and embarrassment, the journey to Egypt was very long and toilsome, nor had she the provisions to sustain them on it. Mary doubtless reflected upon all these difficulties; great indeed, therefore, must have been her distress. She feared for the safety of her Child--she trembled for her spouse--she trembled for herself; nevertheless, she was perfectly obedient to the voice of Heaven. Nor did she complain of her lot; but, seated upon an ass, with Jesus in her arms and Joseph by her side, she departed at once from Bethlehem.

Mary knew perfectly that the fruit of her womb was God. She knew that although His Divine Majesty had humbly clothed Himself with human nature, He had not therefore lost the attributes of the Deity. Hence she was well aware that He still held in His Omnipotent hand the slender thread of Herod's life, and that, did Jesus but will it, that impious tyrant would be deprived of throne and power and breath. She was not ignorant that, when "the earth was void and empty and darkness was upon the face of the deep," then by His Almighty word light was made, and "all things were created by Him and in Him"--moreover that, as the Apostle goes on to say, "by Him all things consist, and by His frown all would be destroyed." The same Omnipotence, she knew well, could laugh to scorn the kings of the earth, and that, should the sacred Humanity of her Child demand aid from the Eternal Father, He would give Him presently more than twelve legions of angels to sweep His enemies from the earth.

Therefore, when Joseph announced to her that they were to hasten with the Babe into Egypt in order to save His life, we may imagine her speaking such words as these: Why need we fear Herod's wildest attempts? Why fly from a power that cannot touch or harm us? What can man do against my Son? Is He not truly God? Moreover, has not His enemy been already twice defeated in His plans? Why not this time also? Let us then remain here in peace and confidence. But does the Blessed Virgin thus excuse herself from the toils and pains which the Heavenly message enjoined? Far from it! She knew that the Divine will is ever to be obeyed; she knew also that such was the desire of her Divine Child. Hence, on hearing from Joseph the message of the Archangel, she at once complied, and, without the delay of a moment, the Holy Family set out on their long journey of obedience--certain of the command, uncertain of its duration. This only did they know, that they were to remain in Egypt until the Archangel spoke again.

Let me here contemplate the prompt obedience of the Mother of God--how it puts to shame my past obstinacy and self-will.

Ten great commandments has my Creator given me. Do I fulfil them? Do I sincerely worship Him by faith, hope and charity? If not, my obedience is most unlike that of Mary. Do I ever take the name of the Lord, my God, in vain? If so, I am disobedient. Do I observe devoutly the Sabbath day? If not, I am not like Mary. Am I truly obedient to my parents, to my pastors, and other lawful superiors? If not, I am far indeed from being like Mary. Do I from time to time foolishly allow anger on my brow? Do I ill-treat my neighbour or ever seek revenge? Am I given to a life of debauchery, or to the sins of uncleanness? Do I wrong any one in his property by negligence, stealth, or fraud? Have I at any time robbed another person of his good name, or tarnished his character by unnecessary or lying informations? Have I ever desired my neighbour's wife, or envied his acquirements or his riches? Oh, if I have not kept the holy precepts which God has given me, surely I can claim no resemblance to her who, in obedience to the will of Heaven--despite the greatest inconvenience of time, of distance and fatigue--forsook her dearest friends, her much-loved home, to live in exile in an unknown land. Pray, then, my soul--pray fervently to this Holy Virgin, and cease not until she grants thy supplication, and obtains for thee from her Son the virtue of heroic obedience. Thus wilt thou be enabled to overcome all thy enemies; for, as Solomon testifies, "The obedient man shall speak of victory."

Second Point

Let me accompany this afflicted Mother into Egypt, and compassionate her on the long and cheerless journey thither. The distance from Bethlehem to Heliopolis, the city in which the Holy Family took refuge, was very great, and appears still greater when we consider the imperfect modes of conveyance then in use. It is commonly said to have been about four hundred miles, and was rarely accomplished in less than forty days. The way was rough, unfrequented, and wild; the season the very depth of winter. Neither hospitable house nor warm clothing defended from its severity this tender Virgin and her still more tender Child. No doubt she had frequently to contend with violent storms and winds, and vainly endeavoured to shield her infant from the snow or rain. Great indeed must have been her sufferings! I seem to see her from time to time fainting from sheer fatigue. Had she been as robust as other women, the severity of this journey might not have weakened her so greatly; but tradition tells us that she was of a most delicate frame; moreover, she was then very young, being no more than fifteen or sixteen years of age, and had but just become a mother. What added yet more to her sorrow was that no food remained either for St. Joseph or herself. The little provision which in their haste they had brought with them, must have been soon consumed, and perhaps for half the journey none could be procured. During that long and toilsome way, Mary had also to give nourishment to her Son. Alas! poor Mother! how must his piteous cries have pierced her heart! "What greater-pang," says St. Alphonsus, "can a mother suffer than to behold her child weak and hungry, and be unable to minister to its wants?"

Nor were these the only sufferings endured by the Blessed Virgin during the flight into Egypt. Those who travel now, even the poorest, can get some lodging, however humble, where they can rest at night and find a shelter from the wind and rain. But it was not so with the Mother of God. She was for nearly forty days exposed to the severities of the winter, with only the bare ground to sleep upon, and with no roof to shield her from the storm.

Oh! how can I pamper my body when I contemplate the Mother of the Most High vainly endeavouring each night to rest her wearied frame on the damp earth; in vain! for how could she possibly close her eyes in sleep, when she feared each moment lest some wild beast, or, still more terrible, some messenger from Herod might come to rob her of her child! Half of her perilous journey was through thick forests, half through the wilderness of Arabia. Whilst in the former, the falling of withered leaves, the rustling of shrubs, and the crackling of the branches of trees, sounded, most likely, to her attentive ear, like unto the near approach of robbers or the coming of ravenous wolves. When in the latter, she had to traverse over long tracts of sand, with no shelter whatever, and exposed completely to thirst, dust, excessive heat or excessive cold, according to the state of weather on each successive day. No doubt the drifting of the sands, the darkening of the sky, and the thick mists of noon and morning, must have alarmed her greatly lest some fierce hurricane might break out and destroy them in the wilderness.

But, oh! how far more must she have feared lest, on account of all these severities of the journey, she might lose her life's sole happiness, her darling Babe, lest He might die; "for Mary," says St. Bonaventure, "was not so much concerned for her own sufferings as for those of Jesus." She would keep her dear Son from danger of dew and cold, but how could she? She presses Him to her loving breast; but all in vain, for she herself is totally unprovided for the inclemencies of the weather. Had she the means, she would also comfort St. Joseph; but what help could she give him? She could administer nothing to him save encouraging words, and this no doubt she did, in spite of fatigue of body and of mental anguish. Hagar, in the desert of Beersheba, is a striking picture of the Blessed Virgin in her flight into Egypt. The Sacred Scripture tells us, in the 21st chapter of Genesis, that the water being exhausted, Hagar placed her son, Ismael, under a tree, and, withdrawing from him that she might not see him die, she abandoned herself to tears and groans until the angel came to console her. But Thou, O God, alone knowest how greatly Mary was convulsed with grief when she beheld the sufferings of her Child. I ask for grace to understand this great affliction, which even angels cannot comprehend without special light from Thee. Let this sorrow of thy daughter, O Heavenly Father, be deeply imprinted on my heart, that I may lovingly compassionate her who suffered with so much patience! This much, however, is granted me to know, that her affliction for her Divine Son must have almost infinitely surpassed in pain all the tears, groans, despair, and anguish of broken-hearted Hagar: since Mary fully understood that the life of Jesus was far more precious than the lives of all the children of Adam.

From the mournful journey of Mary with her spouse and child, through dark and wild woods, and through the Arabian desert, Christians are to learn, says Cornelius a Lapide, how to deport themselves during their long pilgrimage in this vale of tears. The world is the road to Heaven. But it is a very rough and dangerous path; experience teaches this to all. As I travel onwards, I am blown to and fro by contrary winds of temptation, while the rain of persecution and tribulation beats hard against me, or reproach, like snow, freezes my heart. Since such is indeed the case, I must never forget the afflicted Mother of God. She is patient under all her fatigues and sufferings. I must also be patient. She does not care for the severities of the season, nor should I be cast down by afflictions; I should courageously combat against them, asking the help of God's grace. She delays not on her journey, but makes it with great speed; neither should I, therefore, suffer the foolish toys of this world to stop my progress towards Heaven.

Oh! my soul, when, during thy exile here below, thou seemest rather to be struggling amidst tempests and whirlwinds than living in serenity, forget not Mary on her way to Egypt, if thou wouldst not be destroyed by the storms. If the strong winds of temptation blow, be not afraid, but look at Mary in the desert. If from time to time thou art beaten on all sides by the violent rain of pride, ambition, detraction, or jealousy, consider Mary in the desert. If the terrible thunders or the ravaging lightnings of anger, hatred, or revenge, disturb thy peace; or if despair, like a blight, withers the heart, think of the conduct of thy Mother in the woods and desert; see her patience, her faith, her unbounded hope, her entire reliance on the providence of God. If, my soul, the dust of imperfection or the gloom of the journey trouble or discourage thee, remember Mary on her way to Egypt. If the filth and mire of lust impede thee on thy way, do not forget Mary. In dangers, in anguish, anxiety, and doubt--in all thy troubles during thy pilgrimage towards Heaven, think of Mary in the desert. Let her sorrow there never depart from thy mind, thy heart, thy lips. Following her, thou wilt not go astray; praying to her, thou wilt not despair; led by her hand, thou wilt not fall to the ground; under her protection, thou needest not fear; she being leader, thou wilt not be fatigued; and by her gentle guidance thou wilt happily reach thy destination, where, with the holy angels, thou wilt praise her forever. (See St. Bernard, on the Name of Mary.)


Behold, most afflicted Mother, thy humble client praying at thy feet. Here will I kneel, contemplating thy wonderful obedience and heroic patience: thy wonderful obedience in fulfilling so readily the onerous command of Gabriel, the Archangel; thy heroic patience in doing so without murmur or complaint. O Mary, dearest Virgin Mary, obtain for me, I beseech thee, these two beautiful virtues. Teach me also how to journey safely through this vale of tears. Comfort me in my sorrows, help me in my wants, and never suffer me to deviate from the right path, but as a star guides the mariner securely into port, so do thou, my protectress, conduct me safely to Heaven. Most sincerely do I compassionate thee in that indescribable woe which thou didst feel when in the dreary desert, and I devoutly beg of thee to stamp deeply on my heart thy second bitter Dolour, that with thee, dear afflicted Mother, I may suffer and weep here below, and be glad and rejoice with thee in Heaven. Amen.


Mary, O Dolorous Virgin, obtain for me holy patience and obedience, and safely conduct me through the perils of this world to Jesus, the haven of salvation.

Say "three Ave Marias in honour of all Mary suffered in Nazareth, for an increase of Hope."

Collect Prayer from this Mass:

O God, the Protector of those who trust in Thee, Who willed that Your Only-begotten Son, Our Redeemer, be rescued from the sword of Herod by the flight into Egypt: grant to us, your servants, through the intercession of the Most Blessed Ever-Virgin Mary, His Mother, that, freed from all dangers of mind and body, we may merit to arrive at our heavenly fatherland.  Through the same Our Lord…
Sunday, February 15, 2015
Forgiveness Sunday

Today is in the Byzantine Tradition is Cheesefare Sunday, in addition to being Forgiveness Sunday.  As the Orthodox Church website shares:
The Sunday of Forgiveness is the last Sunday prior to the commencement of Great Lent. During the pre-Lenten period, the services of the Church include hymns from the Triodion, a liturgical book that contains the services from the Sunday of the Publican and the Pharisee, the tenth before Pascha (Easter), through Great and Holy Saturday. On the Sunday of Forgiveness focus is placed on the exile of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, an event that shows us how far we have fallen in sin and separated ourselves from God. At the onset of Great Lent and a period of intense fasting, this Sunday reminds us of our need for God’s forgiveness and guides our hearts, minds, and spiritual efforts on returning to Him in repentance.
Thus in honor of this day I publicly ask all of you for your forgiveness for anything that I may have done or said or written that has damaged our relationship or hurt you in any way.  God have mercy on me.  Forgive me, brethren!
Monday, February 9, 2015
When Must a Catholic Obey the Pope?

In today's world, we are faced with a dire situation that is virtually unprecedented in the history of the Church.  We need only look to Pope Francis' comments of late on how Catholics should not "breed like rabbits," his support for adulterers, his abuse of the Holy Thursday Liturgy during the Washing of the Feet, the grave controversies arising from last year's Synod on the Family regarding contraception and divorce, and much more.

The point of this post is not to discuss any of these issues.  But, in light of the above, if a Pope were to command us to do something contrary to the Deposit of the Faith, if he were to teach an error, if he were to abuse the Sacred Liturgy, or anything of the like, must we support him or even obey him?

In light of Cardinal Burke's recent comments, it is especially important for us to consider at this time when many bishops are even teaching things contrary to the Faith and are causing scandal.

Let's start with some important sources on the topic.  Even though these sources may be old, they are nonetheless relevant to this discussion and they hold weight because they encapsulate the authentic teaching of the Magesterium of the Church.

"...that it is necessary to obey a Pope in all things as long as he does not go against the universal custom of the Church, but should he go against the universal customs of the Church, he need not be followed" -Pope Innocent III

"Peter has no need of our lies or flattery. Those who blindly and indiscriminately defend every decision of the supreme Pontiff are the very ones who do most to undermine the authority of the Holy See- they destroy instead of strengthening its foundations." Melchior Cano, theologian of the Council of Trent

"We affirm without hesitation that all the striving of men will be vain if they leave out the Church." Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum #16
And let us not forget St. Robert Bellarmine:
“Just as it is lawful to resist the pope that attacks the body, it is also lawful to resist the one who attacks souls or who disturbs civil order, or, above all, who attempts to destroy the Church. I say that it is lawful to resist him by not doing what he orders and preventing his will from being executed.”
The Church is not without some history on this matter.  Pope Vigilius for instance was a heretic who was excommunicated by the Second Council of Constantinople.  The Faithful were not only discouraged from following him; on the contrary, to follow him would have been a grave sin.

I am not alleging the current Pope to be a heretic.  It seems all to common that when anyone so much as questions the directives of the modern popes after Vatican II, that those with the questions are accused of such.  On the contrary, I am not.  However, the issue of the possibility of a heretic as Pope is relevant.  After all, if a Pope were to be a heretic, would he have to be followed?  Could a Pope even be a heretic?  Would he lose his right to rule or would it declare null and void all of his actions as if he were never a Pope?

The Remant published an article by Robert J. Siscoe in November 2014 on this very subject.  I quote:
“Indeed the Church has the right to separate herself from an heretical pope according to divine law. Consequently it has the right, by the same divine law, to use all means of themselves necessary for such separation…”

- John of St. Thomas

“The Church must render a judgment before the pope loses his office. Private judgment of the laity in this matter does not suffice.”

- Robert J. Siscoe

A recent article by Fr. James V. Schall S.J., which was re-posted as “the article of the week” on the popular Traditional Catholic website Rorate Caeli, has caused quite stir in some quarters. In the short article, which is titled On Heretical Popes, Fr. Schall briefly discusses the claims of heresy leveled against the post-Conciliar Popes, especially Pope Francis, and raises the question of whether a pope can fall into heresy, and, if so, how the Church would go about deposing him. The article was written in a very moderate tone, but the issues addressed were evidently too much for the extreme Left and their newly discovered Ultramontanism.

A writer at the ultra-liberal National Catholic Reporter reacted with outrage that Fr. Schall would dare mention such issues during the current Pontificate. He declared Fr. Schall’s article to be “irresponsible and inflammatory”, and suggested the only response to this “danger” is “to seek even harder to embrace Pope Francis and his effort to renew the Church.”

In light of recent events, even mainstream Catholics are beginning to openly ask if it is possible for a pope to be a heretic, and, if so, what means would the Church possess to remedy such a dangerous situation. For if Providence could permit a man to be raised to the Pontificate whose words and actions risked leading countless souls into sin and heresy, surely the Good God has likewise provided the Church with the means necessary to protect herself, and to remedy the dire situation. During the First Vatican Council, Bishop Zinelli, a Relator for the Deputation of the Faith (the body charged with explaining the meaning of the schemas to the Council Fathers), said the following about the hypothesis of an heretical Pope: “God does not fail in the things that are necessary; therefore, if He permits so great an evil, the means to remedy such a situation will not be lacking”. (1)

In this article, we will delve deep into the issues that were only touched upon by Fr. Schall. We will not only consider the possibility of a Pope falling into heresy, but, more importantly, the way in which an heretical Pope can be deposed. We will consider this complex and difficult question on both the speculative and practical level by consulting the theologians and canonists who have written on the subject over the centuries. We will employ the distinctions necessary to navigate through the minefield of possible errors that touch upon the issue of deposition, while carefully avoiding the heresy of Conciliarism.
And for those unfamiliar, the SSPX website has provided a translation for the words of Cardinal Burke that were referenced at the beginning of this article
Cardinal Burke: I cannot accept that Communion can be given to a person in an irregular union because it is adultery. On the question of people of the same sex, this has nothing to do with marriage. This is an affliction suffered by some people whereby they are attracted against nature sexually to people of the same sex.

Question: If perchance the pope will persist in this direction, what will you do?
Cardinal Burke: I shall resist, I can do nothing else. There is no doubt that it is a difficult time; this is clear, this is clear.
And so, we could summarize this question (When Must a Catholic Obey the Pope) by saying again the wisdom of Pope Innocent III, namely "...that it is necessary to obey a Pope in all things as long as he does not go against the universal custom of the Church, but should he go against the universal customs of the Church, he need not be followed."  And furthermore, should a Pope teach anything contrary to the Deposit of Faith as our forefathers and their forefathers held to it, we should resist such a Pope and hold true to the same Faith that we have received (St. Paul: "Tradidi quod et accepi —I have transmitted to you what I have received").
Feast of St. Cyril of Alexandria

Double (1955 Calendar): February 9

St. Cyril, the patriarch of Alexandria, was known as the Doctor of the Incarnation. He took a fearless stand against the Nestorian heretics who denied that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity was made a man. As the Pope's legate, Cyril presided over the third General Council, held at Ephesus in 431. The clear statements of this great council regarding the Incarnation defined that the Son of God is both God and man and that the Blessed Virgin, His Mother, is truly the Mother of God. Of St. Cyril it may be said, "Nations shall declare his wisdom, and the Church shall show forth his praise" (Eccli. 39:14).

The main impetus for the Council of Ephesus started not with discussions about the nature of Christ but about the title of Mary, the Blessed Mother.  In 428, the Patriarch of Constantinople died.  The choice among the clergy within Constantinople was splintered by factions so an outsider from Antioch, Nestorius, was chosen.  Nestorius at first seemed like an excellent choice as Patriarch of Constantinople.  He had a reputation for eloquence and was the head of a monastery in Antioch.  The Emperor of the East, Theodosius II, approved of him and Nestorius was installed on April 10, 428.  Around the end of the year, a priest that Nestorius had brought with him from Antioch began to preach that the Blessed Mother should not be called Theotokos (God Bearer) because God, being human, could not be born.  The people of Constantinople were upset that such a doctrine had won approval from their new Patriarch.   Theotokos was an ancient title of Mary.  St. John Chrysostom (a former Patriarch of Constantinople himself) had called Mary Theotokos  –
“It is truly right to bless you, O Theotokos, ever blessed and most pure, and the Mother of our God. More honorable than the Cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim, without defilement you gave birth to God the Word. True Theotokos we magnify you.”
Nestorius, unfortunately, agreed with the priest from Antioch.  He stated that Mary should rightly be called Christotokos or Christ-Bearer.  Nestorius began to preach against the title of Theotokos.  When monks from Constantinople protested, they were scourged and imprisoned for their Marian devotion.  Nestorius’ heresy was more serious than a debate about what to call the Blessed Virgin – he and his followers actually denied the Hypostatic Union.  The Hypostatic Union is the union between the Divine Nature of our Lord and the human nature He adopted for our salvation.  Nestorius treated Jesus as if He had two separate natures.

Nestorius published his sermons, even sending them to Pope Celestine.  Cyril, the Patriarch of Alexandria, also heard of the sermons and immediately warned the Egyptian desert monks of Nestorius’ errors.  In August, 430, Pope Celestine held a synod in Rome, condemning Nestorius teachings and ordered him to recant.  Pope Celestine appointed Cyril to carry out this sentence to Nestorius in Constantinople.  Before Cyril could arrive, Theodosius II, the Emperor of the East, convened a general Church council in Ephesus on June 7, 431 – Pentecost Sunday

We know many details of what happened at the Council of Ephesus.  First, the Nicene Creed was read out to the assembled Bishops.   Then, letters that Cyril, the Patriarch of Alexandria, and Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople,  had written to each other when the dispute first started were examined.  Cyril’s letter was acknowledged as adhering to the faith while Nestorius’ letter was condemned as heretical.  We shall quote the later part of Cyril’s letter:
“But I turn to a subject more fitting to myself and remind you as a brother in Christ always to be very careful about what you say to the people in matters of teaching and of your thought on the faith. You should bear in mind that to scandalise even one of these little ones that believe in Christ lays you open to unendurable wrath. If the number of those who are distressed is very large, then surely we should use every skill and care to remove scandals and to expound the healthy word of faith to those who seek the truth. The most effective way to achieve this end will be zealously to occupy ourselves with the words of the holy fathers, to esteem their words, to examine our words to see if we are holding to their faith as it is written, to conform our thoughts to their correct and irreproachable teaching.

“The holy and great synod, therefore, stated that “ 1. the only begotten Son, begotten of God the Father according to nature, true God from true God, the light from the light, the one through whom the Father made all things, came down, became incarnate, became man, 2. suffered, rose on the third day and ascended to heaven.

 “We too ought to follow these words and these teachings and consider what is meant by saying that the Word from God took flesh and became man. For we do not say that the nature of the Word was changed and became flesh, nor that He was turned into a whole man made of body and soul. Rather do we claim that the Word in an unspeakable, inconceivable manner united to Himself hypostatically flesh enlivened by a rational soul, and so became man and was called son of man, not by God's will alone or good pleasure, nor by the assumption of a person alone. Rather did two different natures come together to form a unity, and from both arose one Christ, one Son. 
It was not as though the distinctness of the natures was destroyed by the union, but divinity and humanity together made perfect for us one Lord and one Christ, together marvellously and mysteriously combining to form a unity. So He who existed and was begotten of the Father before all ages is also said to have been begotten according to the flesh of a woman, without the divine nature either beginning to exist in the holy virgin, or needing of itself a second begetting after that from his Father. 
(For it is absurd and stupid to speak of the one who existed before every age and is coeternal with the Father, needing a second beginning so as to exist.) The Word is said to have been begotten according to the flesh, because for us and for our salvation He united what was human to himself hypostatically and came forth from a woman. For He was not first begotten of the holy virgin, a man like us, and then the Word descended upon Him; but from the very womb of His mother He was so united and then underwent begetting according to the flesh, making His own the begetting of His own flesh.

“In a similar way we say that He suffered and rose again, not that the Word of God suffered blows or piercing with nails or any other wounds in His own nature (for the divine, being without a body, is incapable of suffering), but because the body which became His own suffered these things, He is said to have suffered them for us. For He was without suffering, while His body suffered. Something similar is true of His dying. 
For by nature the Word of God is of itself immortal and incorruptible and life and life-giving, but since on the other hand His own body by God's grace, as the apostle says, tasted death for all, the Word is said to have suffered death for us, not as if He Himself had experienced death as far as His own nature was concerned (it would be sheer lunacy to say or to think that), but because, as I have just said, His flesh tasted death. So too, when His flesh was raised to life, we refer to this again as His resurrection, not as though he had fallen into corruption--God forbid--but because His body had been raised again.
“So we shall confess one Christ and one Lord. We do not adore the man along with the Word, so as to avoid any appearance of division by using the word "with". But we adore Him as one and the same, because the body is not other than the Word, and takes its seat with Him beside the Father, again not as though there were two sons seated together but only one, united with his own flesh. If, however, we reject the hypostatic union as being either impossible or too unlovely for the Word, we fall into the fallacy of speaking of two sons.
We shall have to distinguish and speak both of the man as honoured with the title of son, and of the Word of God as by nature possessing the name and reality of sonship, each in His own way. We ought not, therefore, to split into two sons the one Lord Jesus Christ. Such a way of presenting a correct account of the faith will be quite unhelpful, even though some do speak of a union of persons. For scripture does not say that the Word united the person of a man to Himself, but that He became flesh. The Word's becoming flesh means nothing else than that He partook of flesh and blood like us; He made our body His own, and came forth a man from woman without casting aside His deity, or His generation from God the Father, but rather in His assumption of flesh remaining what He was.
“This is the account of the true faith everywhere professed. So shall we find that the holy fathers believed. So have they dared to call the holy virgin, mother of God, not as though the nature of the Word or His godhead received the origin of their being from the holy virgin, but because there was born from her His holy body rationally ensouled, with which the Word was hypostatically united and is said to have been begotten in the flesh. These things I write out of love in Christ exhorting you as a brother and calling upon you before Christ and the elect angels, to hold and teach these things with us, in order to preserve the peace of the churches and that the priests of God may remain in an unbroken bond of concord and love.”


O God, You made Cyril, Your blessed confessor bishop, the invincible champion of the most blessed Virgin Mary's divine Motherhood. We firmly believe that she is truly the Mother of God. May her motherly protection save us through the prayers of St. Cyril. Through Our Lord . . .
Saturday, February 7, 2015
More Older Catholic Books for Sale

I'm once again offering a number of older, traditional Catholic books for sale.  All prices do include shipping.  If you are interested, please contact me at acatholiclife[at]gmail[dot]com.

"What Is the Index?" by Redmond  Burke, CSV, 116 pp., 1952, Bruce publ (on the Index of forbidden books, in good condition, $25 hb)

"The Church of Christ," by Sylvester Berry, DD, 544 pp., 1941, Herder publ. (good condition with clear tape on spine, hb.," $25)

"The Holy Use of Money," John Haughey, SJ, 244 pp., 1986 (very good condition on personal finances and Christian faith, hb $25)

"The Everyday Catholic," by Martin Harrison, OP, 376 pp,, 1954 ed. (good condition, on all aspects of the Faith in practice and doctrine, hb., $25)

"Evolution and Faith," by Bishop Hedley, 252 pp. 1931 (good condition, hb , $25, on science and faith)

"The Message of St. Frances," Agostino Gemelli, OFM, 179 pp., 1963 (in very good condition, hb., $25)

"One Shepherd, One Flock," by Oliver  Barres, 187 pp., 1956, Sheed and Ward publ., (very good condition, hb, $25)

"The Medieval Papacy in Action," Marshall  Baldwin, 112 pp., 1940 (good condition, hb, $25)

"St. Joseph and Daily Christian Living," by Francis Filas, SJ, 176 pp. 1961 (very good condition, hb, $25

"The Catholic Reformation," Pierre Janelle, 304 pp., 1963, Bruce publ. (very good condition, hb , $25)
Wednesday, February 4, 2015
Catholic Study Lessons on Septuagesima

In this period of Pre-Lent, we focus on the need for a Savior and recall the sin of Adam and Eve. 

This past Sunday, the Church began the season of Septuagesima.  Septuagesima is traditionally observed 2 and a half weeks before the start of Lent.  This time, informally called "Pre-Lent," is a time for us to focus on the need for a Savior.  It is a time to prepare a Lenten prayer schedule so that we can determine which extra devotions and Masses we will go to in Lent.  It is a time to begin weaning ourselves from food so that we may more readily fast during Lent.

As we prepare to begin the discipline of Lent, which are traditionally 40 days of fasting and penance, I would like to recommend the series of lessons on Lent which is currently offering.

The course on Lent includes a lesson for all days during the week of Ash Wednesday and a weekly lesson for all weeks of the season.  This course also includes lessons on all of the Sundays of Septuagesima. I'm very happy to recommend this great, traditional program.

Importance of Lent

With regard to prayer, St. Paul tells us to "Pray without ceasing." (1 Thess. 5:17). And Our dear Lord advises us, "Amen, amen I say to you: if you ask the Father anything in my name, he will give it you." (John 16:23). Also He said, "If you abide in me [i.e., "live in Me," or "stay in the state of grace"], and my words abide ["live"] in you, you shall ask whatever you will, and it shall be done unto you." (John 15:7). Further, Our Lord has said, "Watch ye, therefore, praying at all times, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that are to come, and to stand before the Son of man." (Luke 21:36). And in the Book of Judith we read, "Know ye that the Lord will hear your prayers, if you continue with perseverance in fastings and prayers in the sight of the Lord." (Judith 4:11).

Our obligation to do apostolic work, no matter who we are, is seen in the general admonition of St. John the Baptist, ". . .make straight the way of the Lord . . ." (In. 1:23; Is. 40:3). The Church has used this counsel in her Advent liturgy, so we know it applies to all—at least to the extent that all must pray and do penance for the success of the Church's missionary activity, help support it financially—and wherever possible take an active part in the conversion or reconversion of those we know.

The primary purpose of Lent, of course, is to help us become truly holy—and we should work toward this goal during Lent by extra prayer, penance, good works, almsgiving, attendance at Mass and reception of the Sacraments (the chief sources of grace).

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