Thursday, May 27, 2004

St. Gregory VII

I also missed posing anything on the feast of Pope St. Gregory VII, the great Hildebrand. A reforming pope, indeed.

The Catholic Encyclopedia says of him:

But whatever the personal feelings and anxieties of Gregory may have been in taking up the burden of the papacy at a time when scandals and abuses were everywhere pressing into view, the fearless pontiff felt not a moment's hesitation as to the performance of his duty in carrying out the work of reform already begun by his predecessors. Once securely established on the Apostolic throne, Gregory made every effort to stamp out of the Church the two comsuming evils of the age, simony and clerical incontinency, and, with characteristic energy and vigor, laboured unceasingly for the assertion of those lofty principles with which he firmly believed the welfare of Christ's Church and the regeneration of society itself to be inseparably bound up.

An acquaintance of mine currently studying in Rome holds him in high esteem and mentioned to me that he is the pope who currently holds the record for having fired* more bishops than any other pontiff. I have no doubt that the high esteem of my friend and the record held by the saintly pontiff are entirely unconnected. No doubt at all.

*Surely "fired" can't be the right word? Unfrocked? Un-mitred? De-throned? Uninstalled? Deposed? Unepiscopocized? Some blogger recently posted a ritual for this. No doubt that has the correct word. If I could remember where I saw it. . . .

St. Philip Neri, C.O.

I missed mentioning anything about St. Philip on his actual feast day. In the event, it's probably just as well. Almost anything you need to know about St. Philip is either posted here on the Irish Elk or present at one of the links in that article. The additional link that would make it complete is this one. Note especially the links to her 12 part biography of St. Philip.

There are also pictures of, prayers to and links to sites about St. Philip and the Oratory seeded all throughout this site.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

More on the Ancient Irish Pipes

The ones first mentioned here, that is.

Correspondent Maureen O'Brien has found a news story in writing about the 2,000 year old musical instrument(s). The description still sounds like pipe drones to me but perhaps not. The suggestion in the article is that it was something like a pan pipe.

In any event, thank you Maureen. The RTE link that I provided goes away fairly soon. This one should stay up for a while.

(She doesn't mention it, but I presume Maureen is the same Maureen O'Brien who is the proprietress of Aliens in This World, where you may learn any number of interesting things. A short history of warrior nuns, for instance. The sister who used to wield an offensive ruler with such dexterity when you were in the fourth grade had a very long and traditional pedigree indeed.)

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Employment Opportunity

Does not discriminate based on race, creed, color, large red nose, or baggy pants.

Overheard in the check-out line at Ralphs

The man and woman behind me (husband and wife? They seemed companionable enough to be.) were discussing the Abu Ghraib photos that have been in the news. Said the man: "Well at least The Times has finally discovered some homosexual activity that it disapproves of."

"Indeed," I said to myself. And I continued just as silently, "And an organization as deeply concerned with the humiliation of those men as it claims to be might want to forgo printing pictures of their humiliation at least for a day or two."

Monday, May 17, 2004

Dear Abby: Dateline Rome

I wasn't going to marry a Mohammedan anyway, being already married to the only woman who'd ever put up with me, but in case you were here is some good advice from Rome: Don't.

Sunday, May 16, 2004

St. Mary's in the News

Today was the first Sunday in many years with no Latin Mass of any kind at St. Mary's by the Sea. There was supposed to be a Latin Mass in the Pauline Rite but due to a miscommunication the celebrant didn't arrive. The Mass was a vernacular Mass of the Pauline Rite. A very reverent and by-the-book one, to be sure and not, thanks be to God, a "typical" one. But still. . . .

There was some small consolation provided by the Orange County Register in its "Commentary" section. Editorialist Steven Greenhut took off the kid gloves and let loose with this.

Some excerpts:

Now that a veteran priest at a traditional Huntington Beach parish has retired, the diocese is stamping out the Tridentine Mass at that location, forcing devotees to drive to the overcrowded Mission San Juan Capistrano, where it is still officially sanctioned.

Basically, the forces of liberalism that are crushing traditional Roman Catholic piety are the same forces that unleashed the sex-abuse scandal within the church. As long as the leadership rejects traditional ideals of holiness and piety, nothing will be done to assure that holy men, and not those with lax sexual attitudes, dominate the priesthood.

Locally, Fr. Daniel Johnson, the kindly, traditionalist priest who led St. Mary's by the Sea for 25 years, has retired. His retirement, and the retirement of the Tridentine Mass with him, is heartbreaking news to St. Mary's parishioners.

It's a mean-spirited act for the bishop to deny the parishioners the mass they love so much. The diocese says permission for the mass was granted for the priest only, and it retires with him. But the diocese could, if it wanted to, pass the permission on to someone else.

There's more at the link above.

St. Simon Stock

Today is the feast of St. Simon Stock, one-time father general of the Carmelite Order and the man whom tradition says received the Order's scapular from the hands of Our Lady and the Blessed Child Jesus.

The picture at the top of this post shows a portion of the dome of the Carmelite Monastery of Stella Maris in Haifa. The painting, by Brother Luigi Poggi, shows the "Saturday Privilege". St.Simon Stock is holding up the scapular and the angels sent by Our Lady are shown rescuing the souls in Purgatory who died wearing the Carmelite scapular, which according to the artist appear still to be worn in Purgatory. [Taken from "Carmel in the Holy Land" published by Messagero di Gesu Bambino, Arenzano, Italy. I think it is still available from ICS Publications in the U.S.]

Butler in his Lives of the Saints accurately reflects the tradition of the Order in regard to St. Simon in the text found here.

This site provides this short summary of his life:

Although little is known about Simon Stock's early life, legend has it that the name Stock, meaning "tree trunk," derives from the fact that, beginning at age twelve, he lived as a hermit in a hollow tree trunk of an oak tree. It is also believed that, as a young man, he went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land where he joined a group of Carmelites with whom he later returned to Europe. Simon Stock founded many Carmelite Communities, especially in University towns such as Cambridge, Oxford, Paris, and Bologna, and he helped to change the Carmelites from a hermit Order to one of mendicant friars. In 1254 he was elected Superior-General of his Order at London. Simon Stock's lasting fame came from an apparition he had in Cambridge, England, on July 16, 1251, at a time when the Carmelite Order was being oppressed.

St. Simon is said to have composed the hymns "Flos Carmeli" (shown below) and "Ave Stella Matutina", which I have never seen and have never been able to find.

The full version of Flos Carmeli, which was formerly used as sequence for the Masses of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Simon Stock, is as follows:

Flos Carmeli,
Vitis florigera,
Splendor caeli,
Virgo puerpera

Mater mitis,
Sed viri nescia,
Da privilegia,
Stella maris.

Mater mitis
sed viri nescia
esto propitia
stella maris.

Radix Jesse
germinans flosculum
Nos ad esse
tecum in saeculum

Inter spinas
quae crescis lilium
Serva puras
mentes fragiluim

Fortis Pugnantium
Furunt bella
tende praesidium

Per incerta
prudens consilium
Per adversa
jugie solatium

Mater dulcis
Carmeli domina,
plebem tuam
reple laetitia
qua bearis.

clavis et janua,
fac nos duci
quo, Mater, gloria


Here is a version published by the English Carmelites of the Ancient Observance:

Flower of Carmel, tall vine blosson laden;
Splendour of heaven. Child bearing, yet maiden.
None equals thee.

Mother so tender, whom no man didst know.
On Carmel's children. Thy favours bestow.
Star of the Sea.

Strong stem of Jesse. Who bore one bright flower.
Be ever near us. And guard us each hour:
Who serve thee here.

Purest of lilies, that flowers among thorns.
Bring help to true hearts that in weakness turn:
And trust in thee.

Strongest of armour, we trust in thy might.
Under thy mantle, hard pressed in the fight.
We call to thee.

Our way, uncertain, surrounded by foes.
Unfailing counsel you offer to those -
Who turn to thee.

O gentle Mother, who in Carmel reigns.
Share with your servants. That gladness you gained.
And now enjoy.

Hail, gate of heaven, with glory now crowned.
Bring us to safety, where thy Son is found.
True joy to see.

The ancient collect for St. Simon's feast day is this:

Plebs tibi, Domine, Virginique Matri dicata, beati Simonis, quem ei Rectorem et Patrem dedisti, solemnitate laetetur : et sicut per eum tantae protectionis signum obtinuit ; ita praedestinationis aeternae numera consequatur. Per Dominum. Amen.

My own off-the-cuff translation:
O Lord, Thy people, dedicated to Thee and the Virgin Mary, rejoice in the solemnity of Blessed Simon whom Thou gavest to them as Father and Leader, and thus through him obtained so great a sign of protection; and thus may it follow that they be numbered among the eternally predestinate. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

The current collect appears not to reference the scapular promise even obliquely. I have never seen the Latin original, so perhaps it differs from the English. But in any event, here is the English:

Father, you called St Simon Stock to serve you in the brotherhood of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Through his prayers help us like him to live in your presence and to work for the salvation of the human family. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Phoenix Diocese giveth, Orange Diocese taketh away.

The Arizona Republic reports that the first traditional Roman Rite Mass in many years will be celebrated at St. Thomas the Apostole Church in Phoenix on Sunday June 6th at 1 p.m. Yet another reason for Catholics in the Phoenix Diocese to be grateful for Bishop Olmsted.

Meanwhile in the Diocese of Orange, the ecclesiastical powers-that-be continue to interpret the Holy Father's call for a "wide and generous" implementation of Ecclesia Dei to mean that one of the only two indult locations in the diocese should be eliminated and the parishioners advised to attend the only other location, which location does not have sufficient room to hold all those who currently would like to attend.

And speaking of the Serra Chapel, has anyone else heard rumors that it is up for "renewal"? I've heard it from two sources now, although nothing official. But it's a remarkably detailed rumor. The Serra Chapel is currently the jewel in the diocesan crown as you can see here:

If the rumors about the chapel and the "artistic" type who will be allowed to get his hands on it are true, you might want to save that picture because you'll never see that 300 year old reredos again.

News from Baker Street and The Brownstone.

There is more news about two of our better known detectives.

The first is a new mystery involving the archives of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes' creator.

LONDON -- Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts got a rare glimpse into the private world of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as thousands of personal papers from his passport to his jotted-down story ideas went on display Friday.

At the same time, the archive has become entwined in a mystery worthy of Doyle's celebrated fictional detective: the bizarre death of a leading Holmes scholar.

The papers are to be auctioned off Wednesday, perhaps to disappear again into the obscurity of private ownership, a fate that had obsessed Richard Lancelyn Green, a former chairman of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London.

Green, 50, was found dead in his bed on March 27, garroted with a shoelace tightened by a wooden spoon, and surrounded by stuffed toys.

The Press Telegram has the rest of the story here. Well, as much of the rest of the story as is known so far.

The second bit of news is better than the first: A&E has finally decided to release the second season of Nero Wolfe on DVD. This edition is also set to include "The Golden Spiders" which was actually a movie made before the series was concieved. Those who have the first and second season dvd collections will have the complete Maury Chaykin/Timothy Hutton adaptations to date.

This series was one of the finest film adaptations of any of the great literary detectives. The characterisations are inspired; it's impossible to read the Wolfean corpus now and not picture Chaykin and Hutton and the rest of the cast, so perfectly do they fit their roles. The music, the settings, the costumes: there's not a false note in the series.

At the present time the series is being re-run (in edited form) on the Biography channel which I don't receive. How long this will continue is anybody's guess.

The real "mystery" in this mystery series is how a network executive could be such a blockhead as to cancel this series and still retain his or her position in the said network. In any event, the residual supply of good sense at the network was sufficient to enduce them to publish the series on dvd. (The first season was published last year.)

More information on the series and viewer efforts to have it revived.

Thursday, May 13, 2004


I have been working on a complete revision of the blogroll, i.e., the links in the column to the left. And today I have made a complete pig's breakfast of the thing, suitable only for deleting. Fortunately, I was working on a copy of the template instead of the original so The Inn is still in, you'll pardron the phrase, "business".

So for the foreseeable future things will stay as they are, somewhat disorganized but, thankfully, only slightly out of date. Mark still shows up as both "Ad Orientem" and "Irish Elk" and the categories are crying out for reorganization. The only change as of today is the addition of two very different but quite interesting blogs: Basia Me, Catholica Sum (my blushes) and A visit will do you no harm; you'll come away edified and informed.

Sailing to Byzantium

There is an extensive exhibit of Byzantine art currently open at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Artuntil July 4th. It is the third in a "trilogy of broad, sweeping, historical shows at the Metropolitan" says the Spectator in a review of it not included in its on-line edition. "In the 1970s they presented the early stage in Age of Spirituality; in 1997 The Glory of Byzantium gave us the middle Byzantine period from 843 to 1261; the current show is an attempt to rehabilitate the final period, thought by many represent a historic political decline."

The reviewer, indeed, finds little evidence of a decline at all in this exhibit. ". . .this is one of the finest displays of major icons -- in most cases either remarkably preserved or at least very skilfully restored -- that I've ever seen."

The exhibit includes much more than icons. There are also "paintings, sculptures, carvings, jewellery, coins, medals, frescoes, chunks knocked off buldings, clerical vestments, amulets rolls, miraculously intact glass vases from mid 13th-century Syria, even an entire massive chandelier, dramatically hung from the Museum's ceiling. . ."

If, like me, you are the width of a continent away from the Metropolitan, there is a sizeable portion of the exhibit on view via the net at the museum's website. The exhibit begins here.

You can also see a video of "The Consecration of the Exhibit" by the Orthdox Archbishop Damianos of Sinai. Surely that doesn't happen every day?

. . . .Thee do we beseech and Thee do we entreat, O Thou Who art good and the creator of all: Hallow this exhibition of sacred icons and liturgical treasures, which we consecrate this day, recompensing and blessing abundantly those who have laboured and toiled in their attentive care of these objects, and those who, in honour of Thee, have brought the works of art here from the ends of the earth that we might behold them. And do Thou grant rest, in the tabernacles of the righteous, unto the souls of the artificers who from ages past have been well pleasing unto Thee, whose names are known to Thee alone.

For behold, precious objects of worship, and handiworks created out of veneration, are here made manifest for the common rejoicing and study: venerable icons and sacred texts, liturgical treasures and vestments, most beautiful articles of fine workmanship, whether written or painted, carved or woven, effulgences befitting the comeliness of Thy house, which our fathers wrought in their love for the beautiful, and for reason-endowed worship of Thee, whether in churches or in homes, offered in piety. All of these, becoming even an ark of Thy sanctification, bear witness to the ancestral reverence and the Christ-loving mind of Orthodox Christians throughout the whole of the ecumene, manifesting the love of the beautiful of our forefathers in Byzantium, and proclaiming clearly unto those that behold them the nourishing of comely arts by our most holy Church. . . .

It wasn't so very long ago that our own Church of Rome used to concern itself with "effulgences befitting the comeliness of Thy house, which our fathers wrought in their love for the beautiful, and for reason-endowed worship of Thee". Maybe it will again some day.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Good news?

This week's [8 May 2004] Spectator informs us in its The Week column that the blood of St. Januarius liquified on schedule this last May 1, the first Saturday in May.

We are delighted to see some traditions continue unhindered by the meddling hand of renewal. As, no doubt, is the Naples Volcano Watch which can now relax for another few months.

Recorded for Posterity

The last traditional Roman Rite Mass at St. Mary's was recorded for posterity on DVD and/or video tape. If you'd like to order a copy it can be done through Una Voce - Orange County at

Monday, May 10, 2004

Fr. Johnson and St. Mary's in the News

The L.A. Times has published a fairly good article, all things considered, on Fr. Johnson's retirement. You can find it here.

They are mistaken in one regard: St. Michael's [Norbertine] Abbey does not have an indult for the traditional Roman Mass. Their conventual Mass is the Pauline rite in Latin.

Oremus pro invicem. . .

The following from a friend who asks my prayers for her friend. I post it here in the hope you'll add prayer of your own.

There is an [3d Order Discalced Carmelite secular] who moved away from Singapore to another country and lives alone. She found out 3 weeks ago that she has advanced breast cancer. The doctor told her she would not be able to go back to her job for at least 6 months following tomorrow's surgery. She is a shining example of peace and confidence in God. How would I fare in this circumstance?! I suspect I would be income, bills, no caretaker and serious illness. Praise God for her brothers and sisters in her OCDS community, who surely will be a great help to her. She goes to the hospital, tomorrow, May 11. They plan to send her home alone the following day (!) with the tubes still connected to her. Please join me in prayer for dear Petronella.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

The Final Day for the Traditional Roman Rite Mass at St. Mary's by the Sea

Mrs. Kraychy can scratch one traditional Roman Rite Mass from her excellent Ecclesia Dei list. The last traditional Mass for the foreseeable future was celebrated at St. Mary's by the Sea in the Diocese of Orange this afternoon. Next week's Mass will be the Novus Ordo in Latin. For those interested, I understand it will be celebrated by one of the Norbertine priests who have been instructed by the Abbot that it is to be all in Latin, celebrated ad orientem, only using the Roman Canon and such other optons as bring it as close as possible to the traditional Roman Rite. I doubt if there's anything they can do about communion-in-the-hand and assorted other "options" which are "mandatory optional" and having nothing to do with Catholic tradition.

The traditional Mass did go out with a bang, though. In the first place it was as crowded as I've ever seen it. This noon Mass was SRO by 11:30. There were people along the side walls, a few people standing in the center aisle, the back of the church was full, the vestibule was full, there were people on the porch and going down the front steps. It was a solemn Mass, with celebrant, deacon,and subdeacon, crowds of altar boys, and several priests attending "in choir". The schola was of professional quality, some of the singers having sung with the Los Angeles Master Chorale. All the chant propers were sung and I think I recognized the Missa Papa Marcelli. A string quintet accompanied Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus at communion time.

No bishop found time in his busy schedule to honor this priest for 50 years of service.

Father Johnson was not well enough to celebrate the Mass but he gave the homily which was more of a farewell sermon as this Mass was in celebration of his 50 years as a priest and of his retirement as pastor and, as I believe the phrase is now, "from the active ministry."

The sermon was one of his stem-winders. He spoke of his early priesthood and being a bit out of step with the times even in the days leading up to The Council. The powers that be kicked him around even then, avoiding giving him a pastorate under any (or no) pretext. His "popularity" didn't increase after The Council. After the council his refusal to give communion in the hand was something of a last straw. They offered him a couple of choices. Father says they offered to "recycle" him. He didn't want to be "recycled". (Who would? It sounds like one of Mao's re-education camps.) Or he could go to this little out-of-the-way, one-priest parish on the verge of closure if he didn't take it. Nobody much attended there and they figured he couldn't do any "damage". The priest who was leaving said he'd get about 17 confessions during the Christmas season. That was St. Mary's 25 years ago.

The first thing he did was install an altar rail and make the sanctuary look like a sanctuary again. And he was off and running. The second thing he did was begin an extra Mass, a Latin N.O. High Mass at noon, which he didn't need permission for, and petition the bishop to allow him to make it a traditional Roman Rite Mass. The number of parishioners has multiplied many times over from his first days. These days he gets 17 confessions on the average week day. Confessions are heard 7 days a week at St. Mary's. (Or they were up until today. Monday will be a new regime and time will tell what practices continue.) His converts are in the hundreds, if not the thousands. We heard many of them testify to his zeal at the celebration after Mass. Is there another priest in this country who has walked his entire parish and knocked on the door of every single residence within the boundaries, whether Catholic or not? And if there is, has he begun again as soon as he finished the last residence? Fr. Johnson has done it 5 times through and would still be doing it if his health had not let him down.

I don't mind admitting to a few tears. Fr. Johnson will be missed more than he will ever know. But there are a few silver linings. The first, and probably the greatest is, that now as "an elderly, retired priest" he will be able to celebrate the traditional Mass every morning, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, instead of just once a week. Alas, it must be "without a congregation under the regulations. But even if I can't attend it, it's good to know this saintly man is celebrating it and bringing its graces down to our needy land. And, of course, it is not the end of every traditional Mass. There are others in the nearby Archdiocese of Los Angeles. They will mostly take a bit of driving to get to, but I did get new tires last week. Should be all set for a few long treks. And there are the Eastern Rite churches; always a glorious option.

There is one more option which was suggested by the diocese in an exquisite bit of smarmy cynicism. If we don't like the new rite, we can "always go to San Juan Capistrano". Yes, indeed, we can. How true. You may know there is an indult Mass at the Serra chapel in Capistrano. It's a magnificent setting for the old Mass. There is a glorious, gold-leaf, Spanish baroque reredos and some wonderful old Spanish statues and paintings. The chapel is over 200 years old. But here's the rub: it is also very tiny. The people who currently attend there need to arrive by 7:30 in order to get a seat for the 8:00 a.m. Mass. If you don't arrive until 8:00, you probably won't even be able to stand in the vestibule. You probably won't be able to see the Mass at all. Suggesting another 2 or 3 hundred people attend San Juan Capistrano gives you an idea of the sort of diseased humor that masquerades as pastoral care in some quarters.

Anybody know where I can get some gasoline for under $2.25 a gallon?


Mallon's Media Watch brings the news that all our favorite buzz words are converging over at the FDA: "free trade", "efficiency", "problem-solving", and the always-popular "choice". Yes, the Fetus Destruction Agency is planning to approve the long-awaited "morning-after" pill for over-the-counter sale. So much more efficient than all that untidy surgery. What with the blood and all.

As always there are a few troglodytic neanderthals attempting to stand in the way of progress. Those of us who find ourselves in that happy band will find a few phone numbers to call and addresses to write to at the link shown above.

If you have a slow connection let this from Stephen Mosher start you off:

There is still time for pro-lifers to call the White House (202-456-1414) and urge the President to assure the American people that the mega dose "morning after pill" will not be sold "over the counter."

Also contact your U.S. Senator or Representative to urge leadership from Congress that will protect women and babies from this new chemical assault weapon.

Toll free: 1-800-648-3516 or 1-877-762-8762.

The abortion establishment is going all out to urge their followers to
lobby in favor of making this chemical killer available over the counter.
Their mailings include the lie that so-called "emergency contraception"
does not cause abortion and does not work if a women is already pregnant. Over the counter approval of the "morning after pill" will be a public health disaster.

Blessed Thomas Pickering, O.S.B.

This is the feast of another of the English martyrs, this time of a lay brother, Blessed Thomas Pickering. Catholic Online Saints has this to say about him:

Benedictine martyr. Born in Westmoreland, England, he entered the Benedictines as a lay brother at Douai, France, and there took his vows in 1660. Going home to England, he became attached to the Benedictines in the service of the Chapel Royal of Queen Catherine of Braganza, wife of Charles II (r. 1660-1685). Arrested as part of the "Popish Plot," he was condemned and hanged at Tyburn.

The CE has a bit more here.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

Viva Cristo Rey!

Theatregoers at one of Madrid's most venerable arts centres became unwitting witnesses to religious violence last weekend when irate zealots broke up a performance of [a blasphemous] play. . . .

Shouting "Viva Cristo Rey," two men launched themselves from the audience at the Circulo de Bellas Artes and beat up the actor and playwright of Me cago en Dios, directed by Pedro Forero, which for the past week had been making headlines in Spain for its blasphemous title and anti-clerical content.

The entire article is here.

The link and even the headline above are courtesy of "A Conservative Blog for Peace".

Fr. Daniel Johnson

Tomorrow will be the celebration of Fr. Johnson's 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination. The traditional Roman Rite Mass, celebrated according to the rubrics promulgated by Blessed Pope John XXIII, will be a Solemn Mass with deacon and subdeacon and an outstanding schola to sing. It will also be his retirement party and his last day at St. Mary's. Father's recent bout with cancer has left him very weak and not in the best of health. Prayers for well-being would be most welcome, particularly so that he can continue in his retirement to celebrate the Mass he loves so much.

As of this writing we still don't know whether we will have a Roman Rite Mass at St. Mary's next week.

If you didn't like suspense, you shouldn't have become a traditionalist.

Watch this space. . . .

The Book of Divine Worship

A recent number of Latin Mass Magazine had an article which found the The Book of Divine Worship, the liturgical book for the Anglican Use, to be a problem because of its roots in the Book of Common Prayer. It seems to me that Fr. Joseph Wilson answered the objections very ably in that issue. The following thoughts on the BCP from G.K. Chesterton - perhaps on Fr. Wilson's side of the ledger - arrived in my e-mail in box this morning. [Now I find that it also appears here and was referenced here and here. I have always known I was a dollar short and now I find I am even more than a day late.]


The Book of Common Prayer is the masterpiece of Protestantism. It is more so than the work of Milton. It is the one positive possession and attraction; the one magnet and talisman for people even outside the Anglican Church, as are the great Gothic cathedrals for people outside the Catholic Church. I can speak, I think, for many other converts, when I say that the only thing that can produce any sort of nostalgia or romantic regret, any shadow of homesickness in one who has in truth come home, is the rhythm of Cranmer's prose. All the other supposed superiorities of any sort of Protestantism are quite fictitious. Tell a Catholic convert that he has lost his liberty, and he will laugh. A distinguished literary lady wrote recently that I had entered the most restricted of all Christian communions, and I was monstrously amused. A Catholic has fifty times more feeling of being free than a man caught in the net of the nervous compromises of Anglicanism; just as a man considering all England feels more free than a man obeying the Whips of one particular party. He has the range of two thousand years full of twelve-hundred thousand controversies, thrashed out by thinker against thinker, school against school, guild against guild, nation against nation, with no limit except the fundamental logical fact that the things were worth arguing, because they could be ultimately solved and settled. As for Reason, our monopoly is practically admitted in the modern world. Except for one or two dingy old atheists in Fleet Street (for whom I have great sympathy), nothing except Rome now defends the reliability of Reason. Much stronger is the appeal of unreason; or of that beauty which perhaps is beyond reason. The English Litany, the music and the magic of the great sixteenth-century style­ that does call a man backwards like the song of the sirens; as Virgil and the poets might have called to a Pagan who had entered the Early Church. Only, being a Romanist and therefore a Rationalist, he does not go back; he naturally does not forget everything else, because his opponents four hundred years ago had a stylistic knack which they have now entirely lost. For the Anglicans cannot do the trick now, any more than anybody else. Modern prayers, and theirs perhaps more than any, seem to be perfectly incapable of avoiding journalese. And the Prayer-Book prose seems to follow them like a derisive echo. Lambeth or Convocation will publish a prayer saying something like, "Guide us, 0 Lord, to the solution of our social problems"; and the great organ of old will groan in the background…. "All who are desolate and oppressed." The first Anglicans asked for peace and happiness, truth and justice; but nothing can stop
the latest Anglicans, and many others, from the horrid habit of asking for improvement in international relations.

But why has the old Protestant Prayer-Book a power like that of great poetry upon the spirit and the heart? The reason is much deeper than the mere avoidance of journalese. It might be put in a sentence; it has style; it has tradition; it has religion; it was written by apostate Catholics. It is strong, not in so far as it is the first Protestant book, but in so far as it was the last Catholic book.

G. K. Chesterton

Another book which owes something to the old BCP is Jeff Culbreath's new family prayer book which you can obtain from him for a modest fee. Look here.

Ancient Pipes

This link is to an audio file of a recent RTE [Irish Radio] news broadcast. The news story in question concerns a musical instrument found in a recent archaeological dig that appears to be some 4,000 years old. Neither the archaeologist nor the news presenter claim that it is part of a bagpipe, but from the description it sounds to me as though it could be nothing else but drones from some sort of bagpipe.

I don't know how long RTE links stay live, but it isn't forever. You'll need to listen soon.

The Italian Greek Byzantine Catholic Church

In a welcome respite from the bickering that constitutes the "conversation" on so many Catholic e-mail lists, one of them turned to discussing the Italo-Greek Byzantine Catholic Church recently. I knew something of this Rite, having read about the opening a few years ago in Las Vegas of the newest church of that Rite. This Rite maintains the Byzantine liturgy and the Greek language but is located principally in Sicily and the mainland of Italy.

The always dependable Catholic Encyclopaedia begins its discussion of the Italian Byzantines with an overview:

The name applied to the Greeks in Italy who observe the Byzantine Rite. They embrace three classes: (1) the ecclesiastical communities which have followed the Greek Rite since the Byzantine period; (2) the Greek colonies in the various maritime cities and at Rome; (3) the descendants of the Greeks and Albanians who emigrated en masse into Southern Italy after the Turkish occupation of the Balkans, and established towns, or at least formed powerful groups by themselves; they long maintained their native language and customs, and even now observe the Greek Rite, though in other respects they have been absorbed in the Italian population.

The CE continues with a fascinating article on the history of this Rite. Unfortunately, the article was written in 1910 and much of what is written about its "current" status no longer obtains. An up-date would be welcome but the material on the web is limited. Especially intriguing is this little snippet: "In Sicily, Italo-Greeks are found at. . . . and Messina, where in the church of S. Maria del Graffeo the Latin Rite is observed in the Greek tongue. . . ." The Latin Rite celebrated in Greek? In 1910? Other than the Glagolithic exception in Croatia I would suspect this church is unique. Some further discussion of that would be most welcome, also. I wonder, does it still exist? Would it still be the Gregorian rite in Greek or the Novus Ordo in Greek? Would it be the new rite in ancient liturgical Greek or "vernacular" Greek? The web doesn't say.

There are a few web pages devoted to this Rite. The monastery of St. Mary of Grottoferrata has a web page. This monastery of the Greek rite has never been a part of the Eastern schism and is celebrating its 1,000th anniversary this year. The deacons of the Greek Rite who celebrate with the Holy Father in Rome come from this Abbey.

There are two parishes in the United States of the Italo-Greek rite. The oldest is Our Lady of Grace in New York and the newest is Our Lady of Wisdom in Las Vegas.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Oncumin o tha Leid

Giein a heft til Ulster-Scotch as a leevin leid an forderin tha uise an oncumin o it.

I've spent an enjoyable few hours, staying up far too late in the process, browsing the website where I found that first sentence. It's the site put up by the Ulster Scots Agency, a Northern Irish government agency formed to promote the use and advancement ("tha uise an oncumin") of the Ulster Scots language/dialect. Most of it, mind, is in standard English so that even those of us who dig with the other foot can understand it. It's a fascinating look at the Ulster Scots language and culture.

There are plenty of audio files here, many of which accompany the written text to allow the visitor to get a feel for the sound of the speech. There are also some good musical selections on that page.