Monday, October 26, 2020
St. Martin's Lent & the Fast of Advent

Martinmas - The Advent Equivalent of Mardi Gras

When November 11th arrives each year, we are accustomed to seeing civic displays of patriotism and honor for the nation's veterans. Originally known as Armistice Day, in honor of the ending of World War I, which concluded on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the United States in 1954 amended the holiday to include a remembrance of all the living and the dead of the nation's veterans. And the name was subsequently changed to Veteran's Day on June 1, 1954. 

However, to the Catholic, November 11th is more than a day to honor the nation's veterans and even more than a day to pray for the repose of the souls of all who have died in battle for the country's defense. November 11th is the Feast of St. Martin of Tours, the great worker of charity who is said to have raised three persons from the dead. Known as Martinmas, this day of celebration featured numerous festivities in honor of the life and charity of St. Martin of Tours, and it is still observed by some Catholics who keep the tradition alive of carrying lanterns and eating a traditional meal of goose on this day. Note: No goose allowed, of course, on years when November 11 falls on a Friday.

In fact, Father Francis Weiser, in the Handbook of Christian Feasts and Customs, shows that Martinmas was the Thanksgiving Day of the Middle Ages. This is not a day we should forget:

The most common, and almost universal, harvest and thanksgiving celebration in medieval times was held on the Feast of Saint Martin of Tours (Martinmas) on November 11. It was a holiday in Germany, France, Holland, England and in central Europe. People first went to Mass and observed the rest of the day with games, dances, parades, and a festive dinner, the main feature of the meal being the traditional roast goose (Martin's goose). With the goose dinner they drank "Saint Martin's wine," which was the first lot of wine made from the grapes of the recent harvest. Martinmas was the festival commemorating filled barns and stocked larders, the actual Thanksgiving Day of the Middle Ages. Even today it is still kept in rural sections of Europe, and dinner on Martin's Day would be unthinkable without the golden brown, luscious Martin's goose.

But St. Martin's Day was more than just Thanksgiving as it also served as the "Mardi Gras" of Advent by ushering in the pre-Christmas fasting period known as St. Martin's Lent. St. Martin's Lent, a fasting period leading up to Christmas, originated as early as 480 AD. Dom Guéranger, in his unmatched, prodigious Liturgical Year, writes:

The oldest document in which we find the length and exercises of Advent mentioned with anything like clearness, is a passage in the second book of the History of the Franks by St. Gregory of Tours, where he says that St. Perpetuus, one of his predecessors, who held that see about the year 480, had decreed a fast three times a week, from the feast of St. Martin until Christmas…. Let us, however, note this interval of forty, or rather of forty-three days, so expressly mentioned, and consecrated to penance, as though it were a second Lent, though less strict and severe than that which precedes Easter. Later on, we find the ninth canon of the first Council of Mâcon, held in 582, ordaining that during the same interval between St. Martin’s day and Christmas, the Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, should be fasting days, and that the Sacrifice should be celebrated according to the lenten rite. Not many years before that, namely in 567, the second Council of Tours had enjoined the monks to fast from the beginning of December till Christmas. This practice of penance soon extended to the whole forty days, even for the laity: and it was commonly called St. Martin’s Lent….There were even special rejoicings made on St. Martin’s feast, just as we see them practised now at the approach of Lent and Easter. The obligation of observing this Lent, which, though introduced so imperceptibly, had by degrees acquired the force of a sacred law, began to be relaxed, and the forty days from St. Martin’s day to Christmas were reduced to four weeks.

The History of the Advent Fast

The Catechism of the Liturgy describes the fast leading up to Christmas: “In a passage of St. Gregory of Tours’ History of the Franks, we find that St. Perpetuus, one of his predecessors in the See, had decreed in 480 AD that the faithful should fast three times a week from the feast of St. Martin (November 11th) [up] to Christmas… This period was called St. Martin’s Lent, and his feast was kept with the same kind of rejoicing as Carnival.” In historical records, Advent was originally called Quadragesima Sancti Martini (Forty Days Fast of St. Martin). Sacramentarium Ecclesiæ Catholicæ published in 1857, states how it was practiced strictly by those under vows since Regulars refer to religious who take vows:

About the end of the sixth century John the Faster, Patriarch of Constantinople, enforces daily abstinence from flesh during the forty days that precede the Nativity. Chrodegand, Bishop of Metz, A.D. 742 enjoins upon Regulars, daily abstinence and fast til the ninth hour from S. Martin's Day to the Nativity.

The Catechism of the Liturgy notes that this observance of fasting in some form likely lasted until the 12th century. Turning to the Catechism of Perseverance by Monsignor Gaume from 1882, we read the following historical account of the Advent fast taking the form of a fast on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from St. Martin's Day until Christmas: 

The institution of Advent would seem as old as that of the festival of Christmas, though the discipline of the Church on this point has not been always the same. For several centuries, Advent consisted of forty days, like Lent: it began on St. Martin's Day. Faithful to the old customs, the Church of Milan kept the six weeks of the primitive Advent, which had been adopted by the Church of Spain. At an early period the Church of Rome reduced the time to four weeks, that is, to four Sundays, with the part of the week remaining before Christmas. All the West followed this example.

Formerly, a fast was observed throughout Advent. In some countries this fast was of precept for every one; in others, of simple devotion. The obligation of fasting is attributed to St. Gregory the Great, who had not, however, the intention of making it a general law. In the middle of the fifth century - 462 - St. Perpetuus, Bishop of Tours, commanded that there should be three fastdays weekly in his diocese from the festival of St. Martin to Christmas. This rule became general in the Church of France til the seventh century, after the holding of the Council of Macon in 581. The holy assembly prescribed that a fast should be observed on the Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of each week, from the feria or festival of St. Martin to the Nativity of our Lord; and that the offices, especially the sacrifice of the Mass, should then be celebrated as in Lent. The use of flesh-meat was forbidden every day during Advent.

The same abstinence was observed in other Catholic regions as a pious donation proves for us. In 753, Astolphus, King of the Lombards, having granted the waters of Nonantula to an abbey of the same name, reserved forty pike to furnish his own table during St. Martin's Lent. We may infer that, in the eighth century, the Lombards observed the fast during the forty days before Christmas, or at least abstained from flesh meat.

By the 1100s, the fast had begun to be replaced by simple abstinence. As stated in Sacramentarium Ecclesiæ Catholicæ:

"Peter the Venerable, the ninth Abbat of Cluny, A.D. 1123, says, 'Since a more than ordinary abstinence is kept by nearly the whole Church on these days, in order to prepare for the Nativity of the Lord, let us consecrate these hallowed days with moderate fasts, which many others consecrate with greater fasts.'

The writer continues:

Although the period is forty days, there never were anywhere actually forty fast days, because fasting was prohibited on Sabbaths, except at Rome, and everywhere on Lord's Days. There could therefore be only twenty-eight, twenty-nine or third fast days within the period. And as the Roman Church allowed fasting on Sabbaths, the period was shortened by five or six days, according to the number of Sabbaths...

Some severe monastic orders, e.g. the friars minors, did actually observe forty fast days, and so began this Lent after the Octave of All Saints, which allows forty fast days exclusive of Sabbaths and Lord's Days...

Similarly, Rev. Antonine Villien mentions the decline of the Advent Fast in "A History of the Commandments of the Church":

Thus even before reaching full vogue, the Advent fast was on the decline. At the end of the twelfth century it was nearly abolished. The Council of Avranches AD 1172 made not only fasting but even abstinence in Advent a matter of simple counsel especially addressed to clerics and soldiers. In Rome, the observance still existed but in Portugal, it was not known whether it carried with it any obligation for the Archbishop of Braga questioned Pope Innocent III on this point and the Pope, instead of insisting that there is an obligation, simply states that in Rome the fast is observed. No very clear information is to be obtained from Durand de Mende if an Advent fast existed at his time. Durand does not speak of the way it was observed. In England, it was obligatory only for monks like the daily fast imposed by the Council of Tours for the month of December up to Christmas.

As indicated, in 1281, the Council of Salisbury held that only monks were expected to keep the fast; however, in a revival of the older practice, in 1362, Pope Urban V required abstinence for all members of the papal court during Advent. Yet this, too, did not last long. By the time of St. Charles Borromeo in the 16th century, the saint urged the faithful under his charge in Milan to observe fasting and abstinence on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays of Advent. Dom Guéranger similarly testifies to this in The Liturgical Year:

The discipline of the Churches of the west after having reduced the time of the Advent fast so far relented in a few years as to change the fast into a simple abstinence and we even find Councils of the twelfth century, for instance Selingstadt in 1122 and Avranches in 1172, which seem to require only the clergy to observe this abstinence. The Council of Salisbury held in 1281 would seem to expect none but monks to keep it. On the other hand for the whole subject is very confused owing no doubt to there never having been any uniformity of discipline regarding it in the western Church we find Pope Innocent III in his letter to the bishop of Braga mentioning the custom of fasting during the whole of Advent as being at that time observed in Rome, and Durandus in the same thirteenth century in his Rational on the Divine Offices tells us that in France fasting was uninterruptedly observed during the whole of that holy time. 

This much is certain that by degrees the custom of fasting so far fell into disuse that when in 1362 Pope Urban V endeavoured to prevent the total decay of the Advent penance all he insisted upon was that all the clerics of his court should keep abstinence during Advent without in any way including others either clergy orlaity in this law.

St. Charles Borromeo also strove to bring back his people of Milan to the spirit if not to the letter of ancient times. In his fourth Council, he enjoins the parish priests to exhort the faithful to go to Communion on the Sundays at least of Lent and Advent and afterwards addressed to the faithful themselves a pastoral letter in which, after having reminded them of the dispositions wherewith they ought to spend this holy time, he strongly urges them to fast on the Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at least of each week in Advent.

Even closer to our modern times, remnants of St. Martin's Lent remained in the Roman Rite through the 19th century when Wednesday and Friday fasting in Advent continued to be mandated in some countries. In the United States, fasting was kept on the Wednesdays and Fridays of Advent, as was the Universal practice of the Church, until 1840 when the fast on Wednesdays in Advent was abrogated for Americans. The fast on Fridays in Advent was abrogated in 1917 in America and abroad with the promulgation of the 1917 Code of Canon Law. 

The Code similarly removed the Wednesdays of Advent for any localities that continued to mandate them, as well as the Saturdays of Advent, which were kept elsewhere, such as in Italy, as evident by a 1906 decree which mandated the fast. Father Villien comments, "This discipline, which at the present day is observed by Italy alone among the nations of the West, is the last vestige of a very ancient fast, the fast of Advent."

But even the attempts to maintain elements of the Advent fast from the 17th through the 20th centuries were shadows of St. Martin's Lent. In fact, the Church still encouraged people to keep the venerable discipline of St. Martin's Lent, even if it was not obligatory under pain of sin. This fact is expressed with conviction in the Catechism of Perseverance:

The Church neglects no means of revisiting in her children the fervour of their ancestors. Is it not just? Is the little Babe whom we expect less beautiful, less holy, less worthy of our love now than formerly? Has He ceased to be the Friend of pure hearts? Is His coming into our souls less needed? Alas! perhaps we have raised there all the idols that, eighteen centuries ago, He came to overturn. Let us therefore be more wise. Let us enter into the views of the Church: let us consider how this tender mother redoubles her solicitude to form in us those dispositions of penance and charity which are necessary for a proper reception of the Babe of Bethlehem.

On this point, Father Villien concurs:

But it is only with regret that the Church permits her institutions to disappear. She wishes to retain at least a vestige of them as a witness to a former stage of devellopment. This is what she has done for Italy by the decree of September 7, 1906. 

The West Has Forgotten Its Advent Fast

The Advent fast, long observed in anticipation of our Lord's birth, had ceased, although the fast of the Advent Ember Days, the Vigil of the Immaculate Conception, and Christmas Eve remained. Yet by the time of Vatican II, even these venerable fasts were also removed. Despite being one of the holiest days in the year, Christmas had ceased to be prepared for with a fast of any kind. And soon after, the secular world insisting on materialism turned Advent into Christmastide. Christmas parties, gift exchanges, and consumer splurging have all taken place during the time that our forefathers were diligently preparing for the Redeemer's birth by observing a fast. How far we have fallen from the times of St. Martin.

St. Martin's Lent or St. Philips?

The observance of a period of fasting up to Christmas Day is not only observed by the Western Church.  This practice is observed in the Eastern Rites as well. Greek Catholics, for instance, observe this period known to them as St. Philip's Lent. Dom Guéranger writes of this practice in his 1910 volume on Advent:

The Greek Church still continues to observe the fast of Advent though with much less rigour than that of Lent. It consists of forty days beginning with November 14, the day on which this Church keeps the feast of the apostle St Philip. During this entire period the people abstain from flesh meat, butter, milk, and eggs, but they are allowed which they are not during Lent, fish oil and wine. Fasting, in its strict sense, is binding only on seven out of the forty days and the whole period goes under the name of St. Philip's Lent. The Greeks justify these relaxations by this distinction that the Lent before Christmas is so they say only an institution of the monks, whereas the Lent before Easter is of apostolic institution.

In an article on the Traditional Byzantine Rite Fast and Abstinence written by Fr. R. Janin in 1922, "Christmas Lent" is described as "the 40 days before Christmas. The same restrictions as for Great Lent but oil and fish are permitted except on Wednesdays and Fridays." Thus, the Nativity Fast of Advent forbids food cooked with fat, eggs, milk products, and wine -  with oil and fish are also forbidden only on Wednesdays and Fridays. Recently, a distinction was made for the observance of the fast from November 15 to December 12 compared to December 13 to Christmas Eve. In either case, the Nativity Fast - known in the East as St. Philip's Fast - more closely resembles St. Martin's Lent than the West's Advent season does.

Rediscover the True Spirit of Advent

Above all, this time of year, as we approach Advent and await the celebration of the Nativity of Christ, let us embrace some fasting. Fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays during this time is preferable to not fasting at all. But this mitigated fast is a remnant of the true Advent fast. Strive to keep at least Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from St. Martin's Day as days of fast. And, should you wish to do more, keep all forty days as days of fast. Indeed, as St. Frances de Sales noted: "If you’re able to fast, you will do well to observe some days beyond what is ordered by the Church." Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays would be appropriate to observe as days of abstinence without fasting. As a result, I suggest, as a minimum, the following schedule for St. Martin's Lent based on the Church's venerable tradition:

  • Fasting and Abstinence: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday
  • Abstinence-only: Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday
  • No discipline on Sunday
And remember, if you can keep a stricter time of preparation, keep all days as days of abstinence and all days except Sundays as days of fasting.

As we celebrate St. Martin's Day on November 11th, let us prepare for forty days of fasting, penance, and prayer in preparation for our Lord's Nativity. And when Christmas comes, let us celebrate it joyfully and festively throughout January and until Candlemas on February 2nd. While the world celebrates too early and ceases celebrating on the 2nd day of Christmas, let us not make that same grave mistake.

Want to learn more about the history of fasting and abstinence? Check out the Definitive Guide to Catholic Fasting and Abstinence.

Sunday, October 25, 2020
Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Christ the King

A partial indulgence is granted to the faithful, who piously recite the Act of Dedication of the Human Race to Jesus Christ King. A plenary indulgence is granted, if it is recited publicly on the feast of our Lord Jesus Christ King.

"We institute the Feast of the Kingship of Our Lord Jesus Christ to be observed yearly throughout the whole world on the last Sunday of the month of October–the Sunday, that is, which immediately precedes the Feast of All Saints. We further ordain that the dedication of mankind to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which Our predecessor of saintly memory, Pope Pius X, commanded to be renewed yearly, be made annually on that day" (Quas Primas by Pope Pius XI, 1925)

Prayer by Pope Leo XIII (not the revised modern one):

Most Sweet Jesus, Redeemer of the human race, look down upon us humbly prostrate before Thine altar. We are Thine, and Thine we wish to be; but to be more surely united to Thee, behold each one of us freely consecrates ourselves today to Thy Most Sacred Heart.

Many indeed have never known Thee; Many too, despising Thy precepts, have rejected Thee. Have mercy on them all, most merciful Jesus, and draw them to Thy Sacred Heart. Be Thou King, O Lord, not only of the faithful children, who have never forsaken Thee, but also of the prodigal children, who have abandoned Thee; Grant that they may quickly return to their Father’s house lest they die of wretchedness and hunger.

Be Thou King of those who are deceived by erroneous opinions, or whom discord keeps aloof, and call them back to the harbor of truth and unity of faith, so that there may be but one flock and one Shepherd. 

Be Thou King of all those who are still involved in the darkness of idolatry or of Islamism, and refuse not to draw them into the light and kingdom of God. Turn Thine eyes of mercy towards the children of the race, once Thy chosen people: of old they called down upon themselves the Blood of the Savior; may it now descend upon them a laver of redemption and of life.

Grant, O Lord, to Thy Church assurance of freedom and immunity from harm; give peace and order to all nations, and make the earth resound from pole to pole with one cry; praise to the Divine Heart that wrought our salvation; To it be glory and honor forever. R. Amen.

Sunday, October 18, 2020
Secrets of the Sacred Heart by Emily Laminet Book Review

I was asked to review "Secrets of the Sacred Heart" by Emily Laminet, which was just published by Ave Maria Press. The book on devotion to the Sacred Heart is structured by providing a chapter on each of the twelve promises revealed to St. Margaret Mary concerning those who are devoted to the Sacred Heart. Each chapter includes personal anecdotes from the author and applications for our own lives. Some good historical information is sprinkled throughout, and the book does a nice job of going further than merely reiterating the story of St. Margaret Mary which is already widely known. 

In her opening pages, Laminet writes, "Although this devotion to the Sacred Heart traces back to the beginning of the Church, it is perhaps more relevant now than it ever was. The Sacred Heart devotion is for all of us, right where we are, now. In a world that continues to grow colder and more confused, Jesus' Sacred Heart sets our hearts on fire with his love in order to burn off the bondages of sin." Well said.

And later on, quoting St. Margaret Mary, we understand the importance of this devotion for our times: "This devotion is as a last effort of his favor men in these last centuries with this loving redemption, in order to withdraw them from the empire of Satan, which He intends to destroy, in order to put them under the sweet empire of His love and thus bring many souls by His saving grace to the way of eternal salvation."


  • The book includes a mix of St. Margaret Mary's writings with stories on how devotion to the Sacred Heart - like home enthronements and consecration to the Sacred Heart - lead to real fulfillment of the promises of our Lord even in this life.
  • Good information on Fr. Mateo's home enthronement and how we are to make our own homes into a Bethany. He specifically called for families to spend one night in prayer once a month before the enthroned image of our Lord's Sacred Heart saying, "Dear Bethanies, come out with lighted torches to meet Jesus Crucified and prove to Him that your house is really His dwelling place." This monthly vigil in front of the image of our Lord's Sacred Heart as a family is surely a practice worth adopting. 
  • Incorporation of great prayers like Fr. Francois Xavier Gautrelet's Morning Offering Prayer. He was the founder of the Apostleship of Prayer in 1844. And the book featured a great history lesson on the Litany of the Sacred Heart on a point I never read before: "At [the time of St. Margaret Mary when the Litany of the Sacred Heart originated] the litany contained just seventeen lines; an additional thirty-three lines (the petitions invoking the 'Heart of Jesus') were later added to represent the thirty-three years of the life of Christ."
  • Specific attention is given to not only the enthronement of our homes but those of our businesses, schools, and organizations to the Sacred Heart. Employers, principals, mayors, and everyone in a position of authority should enthrone their endeavors publicly to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Not So Good:

  • Doesn't capitalize pronouns that refer to our Lord's name.
  • Throughout the book, uses the 1992 Catechism only, referring to it as "the Catechism" as if it was the only one when it is one of dozens of catechisms. And the New Catechism has several key issues throughout
  • Accepts the validity of post-1983 canonizations using the revised formula
  • There are several typos throughout the book that I would not expect from a publisher like Ave Maria Press. In one part they reference "St. Pius XI" when they mean "St. Pius X" and in another place they attribute a quote to "Pope Paul XI" who does not exist. I assume they mean Pope Pius XI but I am unsure. And in another place, it says, "The Feast of the Sacred Heart is celebrated forty days after the Feast of Corpus Christi." That too is incorrect.
All in all, this is a good book. It is an easy read and nicely combines practical applications of devotion to our Redeemer's Sacred Heart along with some good historical information. My two primary hesitations to recommend the book is its acceptance of the changes of the post-Vatican II era (e.g. the New Catechism, New Canonizations, the writings of modern day Popes, etc) and the many typos throughout.

However, I do not hesitate to recommend and encourage everyone to have their home enthroned to the Sacred Heart and to daily honor and worship our Lord's Sacred Heart. As quoted in the book, St. Claude de la Colombiere exclaims, "If men knew how pleasing this devotion is to Jesus, there is no Christian - however lukewarm they might be - who would not at once practice it. Urge souls, and more especially those serving God and religion, to consecrate themselves to the Sacred Heart."
Sunday, October 11, 2020
The 5 Best Daily Meditation Resources for the Traditional Catholic Liturgical Year

Divine Intimacy by Fr. Gabriel of Saint Mary Magdalen provides deeply enriching spiritual commentary in line with the Carmelite spirituality. It is organized based on the Traditional readings for the Sunday Gospels and around the seasonal themes in the liturgical year. Yet the meditations often are appropriate for any day as they center on true spiritual progress. Divine Intimacy has received great accolades from people who I personally know read from it. The Liturgy Guy provides a very good review of Divine Intimacy where he says in part: "The brilliance of Divine Intimacy comes from Fr. Gabriel’s unique ability to balance spiritual depth with literary brevity: each daily entry typically is no more than three pages long. However, within those few pages, the reader is invited to seek God through the direction of Fr. Gabriel."

 As stated on the product listing at Baronius Press: "This Book of Meditations is a classic and is seeped in Carmelite spirituality. For every day it offers two meditations, in liturgical arrangement, that enable the soul to enter the conscious presence of God and to reflect on the theme of the day. These are followed by a ‘Colloquy’ that helps the person at prayer to start a friendly conversation with God where acts of praise and love, petition, and thanksgiving are made, together with good resolutions for the future. Here we are at the very heart of prayer, which is a heart-to-heart encounter in faith with the living God. Divine Intimacy is the highest state attainable on earth. In this union of love, the soul produces acts of love which have an immense apostolic influence on a multitude of souls. This knowledge of the ways that lead to God, according to the teaching of the renowned Spanish mystics, is distilled into the pages of this book."

Daily Breviary Meditations by Bishop Angrisani are a 4 volume set that follows the Traditional (pre-1955 Catholic liturgical year). These daily meditations tend to follow the cycle of readings in Matins and are heavily geared toward the clergy. However, the meditations here are certainly still worthwhile for even lay Catholics, especially those who pray the Divine Office. 

This reprint from Refuge of Sinners Publishing states: "The extremely important aim of this work, which is the sanctification of the Clergy and laity alike, increases its value and suitableness to the needs of our times. For never before, as in our day, in this period of general disorientation of minds and of most grave threats to the Faith and moral life of the people, has there been felt the necessity of holy priests and laity who for the salvation of Christian civilization must constitute an impenetrable barrier to the onslaughts of impiety and evil customs. This is a rare work that will be a valuable asset to any library." A sample image from a page of the meditations may be viewed here.

The Church's Year by Fr. Leonard Goffine is also worth mentioning. While not a "daily" source of meditations, Fr. Goffine's work includes explanations on the Epistles and Gospel readings for all Sundays and holy days. He includes other explanations of Church doctrine and ecclesiastical customs throughout as well. The meditations can certainly serve worthwhile to be read throughout the year - not just on the particular Sunday he has assigned them. The website for the SSPX Asia has the work available to read freely online.

Dom Gueranger's Liturgical Year is the gold standard when it comes to insights, spiritual enrichment, and historical information on the Traditional Liturgical Year. In fact, his "Liturgical Year" would influence Fr. Pius Parsch who is mentioned further down this list with a work of his own. 

This 15 volume set is described as follows on the product page: "This monumental liturgical work, comprising fifteen volumes, was the life-long labor of Benedictine Abbot Dom Guéranger. Written with the heart of a seraphic contemplative, the holy abbot takes the reader on a daily spiritual pilgrimage through the liturgies of both the East and the West as he immerses the soul into the very life of the ecclesia orans et adorans (the church praying and adoring). The author achieves this by providing daily entries corresponding to the yearly cycle of the Church's worship in both her divine seasonal feasts and those of her saints. Each day begins with a rich and provocative meditation on the mystery of faith to be celebrated together with the ecclesial history of the same; this is followed by excerpts from the Roman Missal's Mass of the day (complete with Propers, i.e., Introits, Collects, Offertory prayers, etc ) as well a host of exquisite hymns from the divine office which are coupled with varied and sundry sequences garnered from other ancient Catholic rites."

The FSSP Apostolate in Atlanta has a free email subscription to Dom Gueranger's liturgical year. Sign up to receive the daily meditation using the pre-1955 calendar that was in place at the time of Dom Gueranger's writing. In fact, his writings precede even the liturgical changes of Pope St. Pius X. While the volume does include the feasts added to the liturgical calendar in the early 1900s, it is still a true gem and one that I read through every morning.

Also worth mentioning are the Sermons on the liturgy for Sundays and feast days by Fr. Pius Parsch. Fr. Parsch was a leading figure in the Liturgical Movement in the early 1900s and his works "The Liturgy of the Mass" (1940) and "The Breviary Explained" (1952) are still read. Fr. Parsch was unfortunately a promoter of the liturgical trend to celebrating Mass on a table while facing the people away from the tabernacle. He died in 1954. 

While these are not "daily meditations" Fr. Parsch provides really insightful and meaningful commentary on the Mass texts. No modernism here in the five Sunday entries I have read thus far. More than merely discussing the Gospel reading, he provides holistic commentary on the Mass texts as a whole, often providing historical context and going much deeper and on different topics than discussed in most other commentaries. I've personally been using it every Sunday and highly recommend it. For a sample, see my Facebook post where I shared pictures of his meditation for the 14th Sunday after Pentecost.

And lastly, I highly recommend the course on the Liturgical Year. With various lessons on the feast days and fast days throughout the liturgical year, it is a great resource. The lessons combined Scripture, traditional catechism passages, prayers, devotions, activities, saintly writing, and other sources in a way that other commentaries cannot do. Again, while they do not have lessons for every single day in the year - or all Sundays - they do have a wide range of lessons, covering saints for instance like St. Jeanne Jugan, who are not covered in any other work mentioned on this list.

Thursday, October 8, 2020
2020 Catholic Voting Principles

With only a month before election day in the United States, it's important to understand the importance of voting and the Church's teaching on how Catholics are to exercise their right to vote in democratic countries.

Here are some of the key points worth repeating on Catholics and voting:

• Catholics are obliged to participate in politics by voting.

• Legislators are elected to serve and protect the common good, human dignity, and rights of human persons.

• Voters should have a clear understanding of the principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

• The life issues are dominant in the hierarchy of issues for the Catholic voter.

• Abortion is the dominant political issue.

• Being pro-abortion disqualifies a candidate from a Catholic vote.

• The ban against euthanasia and assisted suicide admits of no exception.

• Science must respect the inherent dignity of the human person.

• Unused and unwanted embryos must be treated with the respect afforded to other human beings.

• Ending human life cannot be justified in the name of therapeutic (i.e., medical) benefits to other persons.

• Marriage was instituted prior to the state and should be recognized by the state as something inviolate and necessary to the common good.

• Prudential judgments about law and public policy should always seek to strengthen marriage and families.

• So-called same-sex marriages cannot be recognized by the Catholic Church, and civil unions are likely to undermine marriage and damage its foundational role in society.

• Catholic health-care organizations must be free to perform their work with clear consciences.

• Abstinence and fidelity should be the foundation of sexually transmitted disease—education and prevention.

As a result, a Catholic must vote for the best candidate that will advance the common good. A Catholic may not vote for a candidate that advocates, supports, encourages, funds, promotes, or advances abortion, embryonic stem cell research, or euthanasia. 

US Presidential Race:

Where each candidate stands on the issues: 

President Donald Trump recently gave a talk last week to Catholics in New York. Listen to the 4-minute clip:

President Trump's pro-life record:

Joe Biden, a Baptized Catholic himself, has pledged to make abortion enshrined in American law, even if Roe vs. Wade is overturned. He admitted it himself on Twitter:

Joe Biden's running mate is one of the most pro-abortion candidates to ever run: 

The choice is clear for the US Presidential Race. A Catholic may not vote for Joe Biden without committing a grave sin. Fr. Altman has come to a similar conclusion in his recently released video:

Other Races:

Since there are many national, state, and local races on-going, consult a voting guide. Since abortion is the preeminent issue for Catholics - as affirmed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops - referencing this guide from the National Right to Life is useful: 

Anyone for abortion being legal or funded by taxpayer dollars is disqualified from your vote.

As a final reminder, voting is a grave obligation. Do so for the good of souls. You do not have to like the personality or the person you are voting for. But to vote for someone that will advance evil against the human person or the Church is unworthy of a vote. And to vote for such a person would be mortally sinful.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020
Sts. Sergius and Bacchus & Sts. Marcellus and Apuleius

Commemoration (1954 Calendar): October 7
Commemoration (1962 Calendar): October 8

In addition to the great celebration of Our Lady of the Rosary, today's liturgy includes a Commemoration of Pope St. Mark in addition to a Commemoration of Ss. Sergius and Bacchus and Ss. Marcellus and Apuleius. The 1960 Breviary moved the Commemoration of these holy martyrs to October 8th due to a rubric change made in 1960 that allows only one commemoration on days of the II class, and October 7th kept the Commemoration of St. Mark.

The following is taken from their account in the Roman Martyrology:

"In lower Syria, the holy Martyrs Sergius and Bacchus, noble Romans, who lived under the Emperor Maximian. Bacchus was scourged with thongs that tore his flesh; he died in his torments confessing the name of Jesus. Sergius, forced to wear shoes with nails piercing his feet, remained firm in the faith and was beheaded. At Rome the holy Martyrs Marcellus and Apuleius abandoned Simon the Magician, whose disciples they had been, to follow the teaching of St. Peter. After the martyrdom of the apostles they themselves obtained the same crown under the ex-consul Aurelian and were buried near Rome."

The Catholic Encyclopedia also bears witness to their lives and mentions how these saints, whose names are surely forgotten by nearly all today, were honored since ancient times:

"Their martyrdom is well authenticated by the earliest martyrologies and by the early veneration paid them, as well as by such historians as Theodoret. They were officers of troops on the frontier, Sergius being primicerius, and Bacchus secundarius. According to the legend, there were high in esteem of the Caesar Maximianus on account of their bravery, but this favour was turned into hate when they acknowledged their Christian faith. When examined under torture they were beaten so severely with thongs that Bacchus died under the blows. Sergius, though, had much more suffering to endure; among other tortures, as the legend relates, he had to run eighteen miles in shoes which were covered on the soles with sharp-pointed nails that pierced through the foot. He was finally beheaded. The burial-place of Sergius and Bacchus was pointed out in the city of Resaph; in honour of Sergius the Emperor Justinian also built churches in honour of Sergius at Constantinople and Acre; the one at Constantinople, now a mosque, is a great work of Byzantine art. In the East, Sergius and Bacchus were universally honoured. Since the seventh century they have a celebrated church in Rome. Christian art represents the two saints as soldiers in military garb with branches of palm in their hands. Their feast is observed on 7 October. The Church calendar gives the two saints Marcellus and Apuleius on the same day as Sergius and Bacchus. They are said to have been converted to Christianity by the miracles of St. Peter. According to the "Martyrologium Romanum" they suffered martyrdom soon after the deaths of Sts. Peter and Paul and were buried near Rome. Their existing Acts are not genuine and agree to a great extent with those of Sts. Nereus and Achilleus. The veneration of the two saints is very old. A mass is assigned to them in the "Sacramentarium" of Pope Gelasius.:


May the blessed deeds of Thy holy martyrs Sergius, Bacchus, Marcellus, and Apuleius plead for us, O Lord, and may they make us ever burn with love for Thee.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020
What are the 3 Days of Darkness?

And they say to the mountains and the rocks: Fall upon us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth upon the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of their wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand? (Revelations 6:16-17)

Blessed Anna Maria Taigi (1769–1837) is the most known mystic who described the Three Days of Darkness and describes the event in this way:

There shall come over the whole earth an intense darkness lasting three days and three nights. Nothing can be seen, and the air will be laden with pestilence which will claim mainly, but not only, the enemies of religion. It will be impossible to use any man-made lighting during this darkness, except blessed candles. He, who out of curiosity, opens his window to look out, or leaves his home, will fall dead on the spot. During these three days, people should remain in their homes, pray the Rosary and beg God for mercy. All the enemies of the Church, whether known or unknown, will perish over the whole earth during that universal darkness, with the exception of a few whom God will soon convert. The air shall be infected by demons who will appear under all sorts of hideous forms.

Marie-Julie Jahenny (1850-1941), known as the “Breton Stigmatist”, expanded upon the story of the Three Days of Darkness, saying that it will occur on a Thursday, Friday, and Saturday to strike at those outside their homes and those without a lit blessed candle of 100% pure wax. A Catholic home should keep such candles in stock for sick calls as well, should a priest need to visit a sick family member. These candles should be bought long in advance and blessed long in advance as well by a priest using the traditional blessing of candles. The English translation is as follows:

Our help is in the name of the Lord.

All: Who made heaven and earth.

P: The Lord be with you.

All: May He also be with you.

Let us pray.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, bless + these candles at our lowly request. Endow them, Lord, by the power of the holy + cross, with a blessing from on high, you who gave them to mankind in order to dispel darkness. Let the blessing that they receive from the sign of the holy + cross be so effectual that, wherever they are lighted or placed, the princes of darkness may depart in trembling from all these places, and flee in fear, along with all their legions, and never more dare to disturb or molest those who serve you, the almighty God, who live and reign forever and ever.

All: Amen.

They are sprinkled with holy water.

While we certainly do not know the day when the end will come, we nevertheless must always be prepared by living and remaining in the state of sanctifying grace. Each of us will die one day - at any moment - and the state of our souls at that moment will determine an eventual eternity in Heaven or in Hell.

Spend some visit exploring the website of America Needs Fatima, which is also the source of the above image.

Lord, have mercy!

Friday, October 2, 2020
"Only Through These Hands" by Bishop Theas of Lourdes

Some years ago I got a copy of a small booklet called "Only Through These Hands: A Treatise of the Office of the Bishop in the Catholic Church" by Bishop Pierre-Marie Theas of Lourdes. The booklet was translated from French into English by Geraldine Carrigan who lived until the Feast of St. Joseph, March 19, 2000. The booklet was published by Pio Decimo Press, which is now out of business. It would be wonderful to see this back in print again.

A few days ago, I picked up the copy from my bookshelf again and read through its 32 pages. Despite its small size, "Only Through These Hands" is a succinct yet insightful explanation of the authority, importance, and role of Bishops. 

The booklet begins by quoting the Preface used during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the Consecration of Bishop. That traditional Preface with its beautiful symbolism worth repeating. It states in part:

It is truly fitting and just, right and profitable unto salvation that, at all times and in all places, we should give thanks to Thee, O Holy Lord, Father Almighty, Eternal God, source of honor to all dignitaries who in their sacred orders serve Thy glory. Thanks to Thee, O Lord Who, in the privacy of familiar conversation, didst instruct Moses Thy servant, concerning, among other things of divine worship, the nature of sacerdotal garments, and Who didst order that Aaron, Thy chosen one should be clad in mystic robes during sacred functions, so that generation after generation might learn from the example of their forebears, and so that knowledge derived from Thy instruction be not wanting in any age. Among our forebears the very display of symbols would excite reverence; among us, however, the realities themselves mean more than the symbols. Whereas the garb of the ancient priesthood is merely a display for our mind, now the splendor of souls rather than of vestments makes the pontifical glory attractive; because even those things which then were pleasing to the eyes of the flesh had to be grasped by the mind as to their inner meaning. Therefore, we beseech Thee, O Lord, shower upon this Thy servant, whom Thou hast chosen for the ministry of the highest priesthood, this grace, namely, that whatever those garments signify in the lustre of gold, the beauty of jewels, and the varied skill of craftsmanship, may shine forth in their conduct and deeds. Give to thy priests the perfection of ministry, and sanctify them, decked out in ornaments of glory, with the dew of Thy heavenly ointment.

The book is divided into 8 short chapters which each describe the Office of the Bishop:

  1. According to the Gospels
  2. According to St. Paul and St. John
  3. According to St. Ignatius of Antioch
  4. According to St. Thomas Aquinas
  5. According to the Pontifical
  6. According to Leo XIII
  7. According to Pius XII
  8. In God's Eyes
Some of Bishop Theas' remarks worth repeating from the book:

"The episcopacy is not a human institution. It was not established because there was a need for good management, nor because the Bishops are delegates whom the Pope chooses to exercise his office. Rather the episcopacy has a divine origin - instituted by Christ: no one may suppress it, not even the Pope."

The mission of the Bishop is accomplished by "exercising his doctrinal authority," by "the ministry of sanctification, through which the Bishop dispenses divine life," and by "governing, whereby the Bishop instructs, commands, forbids, or permits certain actions." 

There are seven points of certain regarding the episcopacy in the early history of the Church. The first: "The Apostles possess two prerogatives which they do not transmit to Bishops: personal infallibility and universal jurisdiction." The second: "In the first century of Christianity there were Christian communities instead of dioceses. Ecclesiastical authority was exercises over persons rather than a territory."

And after discussing the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas, Bishop Theas writes, "The Bishop is primarily a sanctifier, a fact which trends the episcopal state superior to the religious state, where one engages oneself to receive perfection, not to communicate it."

And Bishop Theas in a beautiful chapter on the insights from the Pontifical, referencing the Preface which was quoted at the beginning of the booklet states, "This sacramental formula is preceded by a text which answers an objection rather wide-spread today: Why all the elaborate vestments for a Bishop - the purple cassock, the cape, the ring, the precious stones? It is in remembrance of the Pontiffs of the Old Law, clothed by the will of God in the finest dress. But especially it is that the Bishop comprehends the symbol of the external magnificence of his ornaments. It is his soul which must be resplendent, for it is interiorly that true beauty is found - the beauty of grace."

"The responsibility of the Bishop is sublime and the charge which the Church imposes on him is very heavy. Pray for your Bishops and look on them with the faith of the Church."

A Prayer For Holy Bishops As Composed by St. John Fisher:

Lord, according to Your promise that the Gospel should be preached throughout the whole world, raise up men fit for such work. The Apostles were but soft and yielding clay till they were baked hard by the fire of the Holy Ghost.

So, good Lord, do now in like manner again with Thy Church militant; change and make the soft and slippery earth into hard stone; set in Thy Church strong and mighty pillars that may suffer and endure great labours, watching, poverty, thirst, hunger, cold and heat; which also shall not fear the threatening of princes, persecution, neither death but always persuade and think with themselves to suffer with a good will, slanders, shame, and all kinds of torments, for the glory and laud of Thy Holy Name. By this manner, good Lord, the truth of Thy Gospel shall be preached throughout all the world.

Therefore, merciful Lord, exercise Thy mercy, show it indeed upon Thy Church.


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