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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Screwtape's Eighth Letter and the Spiritual Undulations
of St. Ignatius of Loyola

Currently in a reading group that is covering C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters, one of the letters I found particularly noteworthy is number 8, in which Screwtape instructs his nephew on the "law of Undulation" and its effects on the interior lives of humans. I came across a recording of a reading of this letter and thought it would be worth sharing here.

[The Enemy] will set them off with communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over temptation. But He never allows this state of affairs to last long. Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs -- to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best. ... Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.

— Screwtape, from Letter 8.

On a related note, tomorrow is the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), founder of the Jesuit order. (Perhaps it is worth noting here that Pope Francis is the first Jesuit pontiff.) Fr. Mitch Pacwa, a Jesuit priest, has given an eloquent summary of the conversion story of St. Ignatius. Key to the story is St. Ignatius's overcoming of his attachments to the fleeting pleasures he enjoyed that were part of his life prior to his conversion. Fr. Pacwa explains how Ignatius's gradually deepened intimacy with Christ allowed him eventually to recognize the passing nature of these pleasures, to found the Jesuit order, and to become at last a great Saint.

The homily begins at 5:14 in the video.

...key to his conversion is that the process of reading the life of Christ and the life of the Saints is that he found that very enjoyable, and it left him with peace. But - even though he didn't have books about it - he would consider saving damsels in distress, fighting great battles, riding off for the king of Spain, and doing all sorts of great things - and he felt good about that too. Both of them made him feel very good. But what he noticed as time went on is that when he considered various aspects of being a knight, it would only feel good at that moment. It would then become hollow and leave him feeling empty. And thinking about Christ and the Saints and the joys of heaven gave him peace, and that did not leave him empty. It gave him a peace that lasted. And he began to notice the difference.

— Fr. Mitch Pacwa, S.J. on the Conversion of St. Ignatius of Loyola (@9:30 in the video).

July 30th is the feast of St. Peter Chrysologus, Doctor of the Church. St. Ignatius of Loyola (✝ 1556) and St. Peter Chrysologus (✝ 450), pray for us.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

QUAERIMUS I, II: Audible Congregational Responses in the Tridentine Mass and the Canonical Status of SSPX

Most who have spent a significant amount of time reading the blog of Fr. John Zuhlsdorf likely have some exposure to his series of posts tagged Quaeritur (translated from the third person singular present passive indicative Latin word: "it is being asked"). Well, given that priests are in general rather busy fellows -- what with their administering of the Sacraments, offering of spiritual direction to members of the faithful, and carrying out of other activities generally directed toward saving souls from the forces of evil, etc., etc. -- it makes sense that they don't always have time to answer every Quaeritur that comes their way. (This is not to mention the fact that some of the questions that some of us (and by some of us I mean me) ask can every now and then be a bit academic.) In any case, I can see it being expedient to keep a record of the questions from myself and others that have accumulated over time. I'll tag posts containing such questions as Quaerimus (translated from the first person plural present active indicative Latin word: "we are asking").

Now, the lay faithful have a bit of a responsibility to make a sincere effort to look for answers to such questions that come to mind (Mt 7:7). In this age of the internet, the answers to them may very well be as close as our smartphone. However, among the many challenges one might encounter in seeking answers is the deluge of convoluted, misleading, or even incorrect information that is widely available. How often has one thought of an excellent question whose answer could greatly advance his spiritual and moral life and, after having searched the internet for it, come across only a few lengthy discussions on Catholic forums containing a plethora of people's speculations, opinions, and expressions of uncertainty about the matter?

It is not an exaggeration to say that the internet is an increasingly vast ocean of information in which one could easily find himself lost in the middle of nowhere surrounded by ominous figures. We set out like quasi-Chestertonian wayfarers, as it were, during the dark night in search of those islands of truth which will eventually lead us to our home, with the lamp of reason as a guide. The night sky is filled with the Saintly stars who also offer us some direction, albeit in a way that is mysterious, frequently unclear to us, and often involves some degree of uncertainty. We have also the moon: Mary, Our Mother -- to borrow the famous analogy -- receiving her light from Christ, the Sun, toward whom we look to the East for His rising, but presently see only through the veil of the Sacred Species.


QUAERIMUS I: Audible Congregational Responses in the Tridentine Mass

I recently attended the Tridentine Mass with my father. Not having attended many Tridentine Masses recently, he expressed confusion afterwards due to a discrepancy he observed. When he served Mass as a young boy -- even prior to Vatican II -- the congregation always responded aloud to the prayers when the servers did so, and in some cases, such as the Pater Noster, the congregation even recited the prayers aloud in their entirety. But at this Mass, the congregation was silent nearly the entire time. I noted that this is frequently the case for Low Masses I attend. Perhaps, I suggested, he had always served Solemn Masses? But I thought this unlikely for every daily Mass he'd ever attended as a child. Further, at the Solemn Masses I've attended, the Pater Noster has been chanted aloud only by the priest.

Fr. Z has posted on this topic more than once in Quaeriturs. In July of 2008, he wrote in response to a reader:

There is no hard and fast rule about vocal responses. I think you have to go with the flow.

That said, various Popes before the Council encouraged congregational responses, the so-called "dialogue Mass".
In my travels, I have seen various levels of participation. ... Much will depend on what the priest wants and promotes.

But yes, congregational responses are permitted and, in many cases, a good idea.

Personally, I prefer responses from the congregation and have no problem at all with them saying the parts pertaining to the server, and even prayers like the Gloria and Creed.

— Fr. Z, from QUAERITUR: congregational responses at TLM, 1 July 2008.

More recently, in a response to a similar question from a reader, he has written:

I think people should make the responses. Popes of the 20th century were speaking about “active participation” before the Second Vatican Council.
In a nutshell, before the Council, it was strongly encouraged that people make responses, especially at Solemn and Sung Masses. This applied often to Low Masses as well, the so-called dialogue Mass.
That said, if no one else at the place you are going makes responses – at all – then I don’t recommend making them loudly all by yourself.

— Fr. Z, from QUAERITUR: Should people make responses during the Traditional Latin Mass?, 30 May 2013.

Returning to 2008, we find Fr. Z responding to a reader specifically regarding whether the congregation is permitted to sing the Pater Noster:

But, the bottom line is yes, even before the Council the Holy See said that the congregation could sing the Our Father with the priest during a sung Mass.

— Fr. Z, from QUAERITUR: Can the congregation sing the Our Father at a TLM?, 20 October 2008.

Notice here, though, that Fr. Z is referring specifically to the sung Mass. My father mentioned that, as a young boy, at all the Masses the Pater Noster was recited by the congregation. To remedy this problem, we have a statement from Fr. Augustine Thompson, O.P., of the Dominican Liturgy Blog, offering clarification in the comment box of Fr. Z's post referenced above:

...It was my understanding that the recitation of the whole Pater by the people applied to dialogue Low Mass...

— Fr. Augustine Thompson, O.P., from the combox of Fr. Z's QUAERITUR: Can the congregation sing the Our Father at a TLM?, 20 October 2008.

QUAERIMUS II: Canonical Status of SSPX

Some confusion arose following the Mass during my discussion with a woman who was claiming that the excommunication of the SSPX had been invalid. While this may or may not be true, I was somewhat certain that their excommunication had been lifted, while also fairly certain that the fact remains that they are not in full communion with the Church. On these points, it appears that I was correct:

The fact that the Society of Saint Pius X does not possess a canonical status in the Church is not, in the end, based on disciplinary but on doctrinal reasons. As long as the Society does not have a canonical status in the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church.

— Pope Benedict XVI, from Letter of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to the Bishops of the Catholic Church Concerning the Remission of the Excommunication of the Fourt Bishops Consecrate by Archbishop Lefebvre, 10 March 2009.

See also SSPX Excommunications Lifted.

(Note that I said that it may be true that the original excommunications were invalid only because I don't see in this case how a latae sententiae excommunication -- which, as I understand it, happens automatically without any statement made by a Church authority -- could be remitted in such a way that it was valid only for a period. It seems that such an excommunication would either be valid and remain so or never have been valid to begin with. Perhaps this would not be true if the laws were changed in such a way that the offending act is no longer an offending act, but I don't see how this could be true in this case. At any rate, I digress.)

Now, in trying to verify anything beyond my claim that the SSPX is not in full communion with the Church, I've found that the whole situation gets quite controversial and confusing very quickly. I've heard claims that some of their Sacraments are valid and other such things. These claims may be true. I will say one last thing on this here: as recently as May of this year, we see none other than Fr. Z himself casting doubt on the validity of Sacraments administered by the SSPX:

In a nutshell, the article argues that SSPX priests absolve validly. I do not believe that to be true. SSPX priests do not have faculties to receive sacramental confessions. Period. Faculties are necessary for validity.

— Fr. Z, from Again about validity of absolutions by SSPX priests, 16 March 2013.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Servant of God Fr. John Hardon, S.J.: Six Key Excerpts

Aside from the men and women of heroic virtue who have been canonized as Saints by the Church over the centuries, there are others whose lives are under close examination by the Church for the purpose of considering that they also may be recognized as Saints. We say that for such men and women, the cause is open for their canonization. The stages for canonization include designation of the individual as a Servant of God (e.g., Fr. Michael J. McGivney (1852-1890), founder of the Knights of Columbus), as Venerable (e.g., Archbishop Fulton Sheen (1895-1979)), as Blessed (Beatification) (e.g., Mother Teresa (1910-1997)), and finally as a Saint (Canonization) (e.g., Thomas More (1478-1535)).

It is worth considering the lives of the men and women whose causes are open but who are in the earlier stages of the investigation. Part of the canonization process is the detailed examination of miracles alleged to have occurred following an individual or group requesting a certain individual's intercession, so it is worth the time to consider requesting the intercession of individuals who are recognized by the Church as having lived particularly holy lives. Note that it is, in some cases, centuries before the Vatican finally determines that an individual should be beatified or canonized. Consider the case of Bl. John Duns Scotus -- known for his famous defense of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception -- who died in 1308 but was not beatified until 1993 (it is apparent that the Vatican is diligent in the study of its long-kept records of certain individuals' lives!).

Among the individuals whose causes are open is the Jesuit priest Fr. John Hardon (1914-2000), currently designated as a Servant of God. As will be more frequently the case for men and women with open causes, many of Fr. Hardon's writings and lectures are available online for our study and edification. Those interested in getting to know Fr. Hardon through his own works can visit the archives over at therealpresence.org to browse the texts, audio recordings, and videos.

After listening to a small portion of the lectures posted, I came across a few excerpts that I thought were especially worthy of being written down and shared here. I will offer a brief thought before each clip.

First are two excerpts from a men's retreat Fr. Hardon gave in 1999. He speaks here on the importance of our own personal spiritual writing.

As you know, during the retreat, it is customary to make a good confession. ... Also, I recommend that those who make the retreat do some writing. What you write is more surely remembered than what you just think about in your mind.

— Servant of God Fr. John Hardon, S.J., from A Retreat for Men, July 14-18, 1999.

...we go on with this important, shall I call it, an exultation. I urge every one of you to do some writing: maybe your daily reflections; maybe your spiritual insights; something you read or heard. During my four years of undergraduate theology, I would write down what I thought from books I was reading deserved to be remembered. By the time I was ordained, I had over five thousand quotations.

Now we get closer to our subject: What is spiritual reading? We can begin by describing it in terms of what it is not. That's easy. Spiritual reading is not secular reading. And more positively, spiritual reading is that reading whose purpose as writing is to assist the believer to better know, love, and serve God and thereby become more God-like, which means more holy, especially in his life of prayer and the practice of Christian virtue.

Whatever I would recommend during these, I'll say, four days of the retreat: in God's name, write. That's the imperative: write.

— Fr. John Hardon, S.J., from A Retreat for Men, July 14-18, 1999.

The remaining clips are from a two-semester course on the Catholic Faith Fr. Hardon gave beginning in 1978. In the first clip, he offers a story to illustrate the difficulty that we all must face as a result of original sin: detachment from the things of this world and the willingness to sacrifice anything if it is God's will. I suspect that many, if not most of us struggle often with the specific temptation that the woman in the story was able to overcome through heroic fortitude: namely, the temptation to put affection for another person over one's devotion to God.

...and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Whether it was a physical apple is not important, but it seems somehow Adam took a piece of what she gave him -- whatever it was. He loved Eve more than God. All I know is one of the hardest responsibilities in life is to sacrifice human affection for God -- that's hard. The hardest thing in life is to give up what or especially whom you love when it's God's will that you do so.

Like the woman in Indianapolis: I came a week after the event on supply at a parish -- a week after one of my Jesuit confreres had been on supply, as we say, at that church. And it seems after the eleven o'clock Mass as he was going into the rectory though the front door -- from the church to the front door, he just stepped inside, when the woman was running up the rectory steps, rang the doorbell in great distress, and just as he opened the door, two shots rang, and the woman fell into his arms. She was killed. She was taking instructions for the Catholic Faith, was living in adultery with another man -- or the husband, well, of another woman's, in other words, another wife: he had another wife. She was told she'd have to give up this man to become a Catholic. You have a man who was divorced and felt he wanted this woman. "But I'm becoming a Catholic." He threatened her life. So during the course of instruction, she was going from church to church in Indianapolis to try to avoid him, because she was scared. She realized he meant business. This Sunday he saw her coming out of the church. Instead of shooting into the crowd, at the risk of killing somebody else, he waited till she was alone. And luckily for him, she -- well, she saw him, and she panicked. She was killed. ... And how often -- how very often -- in our lives this lesson has got to be lived: to give up what we love because we love God more.

The consequence, therefore, was not only for Adam, but, as we know, for the rest of the human race.

— Fr. John Hardon, S.J., from A Course on the Catholic Faith, 1978-9.

We live in a world today in which the consecrated religious life of Catholicism, from the perspective of the mainstream culture with its egocentric principles likely seems impractical or even nonsensical. I try to make it a point to recall often that in the Catholic Faith, the consecrated religious are indispensable -- are necessary. Fr. Hardon emphasizes this point beautifully here. Let us consider these words carefully and continue to pray for those who have given nothing less than their entire earthly existence to know, love, serve, and grow in deeper union with Our Lord.

...the Christianization of Europe is unintelligible without a flourishing monastic life. It is not only that the monks and nuns were the ones who both evangelized and prayed Europe, you might say, into the Faith, but that ever since, a good barometer of the strength of the Church in a given country or part of the world is the strength of its religious institutes. The Church is no stronger or weaker in any given period or place than are Her religious institutes: which, by the way, says something very serious and significant about the condition of the Church in our country.

— Fr. John Hardon, S.J., from A Course on the Catholic Faith, 1978-9.

Fr. Hardon next highlights the necessity of devout women for the preservation of the Faith, especially in nations such as ours that are in spiritual and moral decline.

...my Jesuit brethren ask me, "Whatever possessed you to get so involved with sisters, with nuns?" Well -- humanly speaking -- speaking mainly to sisters: this would not have been my choice. But, I know that if we can keep the women in the Catholic Church sound, we can preserve the Faith. If you let the Church down, even God -- barring a miracle -- will not save it. The Church needs you.

— Fr. John Hardon, S.J., from A Course on the Catholic Faith, 1978-9.

In the lectures, Fr. Hardon sets forth detailed expositions of several of the various mysteries pertaining to Mary, Our Mother. The veneration of Mary expounded upon in the lectures, along with the material such as that given in the previous quotation, emphasize important aspects of the Catholic teaching on the special dignity -- or "genius," to quote Blessed Pope (soon to be Saint) John Paul II -- of women that would likely be foreign to many in the mainstream.

Absolutely speaking, Christ might have been conceived by carnal intercourse. It is not absolutely impossible, of course, for God. Nevertheless, in order to both emphasize Christ having only a divine paternity -- to emphasize Christ's divine eternity -- to show that those who are conceived and born in sin are conceived and born in sin through paternal generation: it's the father who is the source of the sinful contagion with which the rest of us are conceived and born. Mary, then, conceived Christ virginally, and miraculously she gave him birth...

— Fr. John Hardon, S.J., from A Course on the Catholic Faith, 1978-9.

Could an institution that is considering for veneration a man who has taught such things be justly labeled as misogynistic? I will leave that to you to decide.

Servant of God Fr. John Hardon, pray for us.

July 24 is the feast day of Sts. Christina of Bolsena († 3rd century) and Christina the Astonishing († 1224).

Orate pro nobis.