Sunday 27 June 2010

Four Principles of the Sodality

1. Fidelis usque ad mortem

Apocalype 2:10 "Esto fidelis usque ad mortem et dabo tibi coronam vitae."
"Be thou faithful until death: and I will give thee the crown of life."

This phrase from the Apocalypse of St John (The Book of Revelation) describes the perseverance of the Christian soul. It also well describes the martyrdom of our Patron St Tarcisius, who was martyred through his fidelity to the Blessed Sacrament.

Members of the Sodality pledge fidelity even unto death - to the fulness of the Catholic faith, to the traditions and disciplines which are necessary to its maintenance, to the honour of the Body and Blood of Our Lord really present in the Blessed Sacrament.

2. Pax Christi exultet in cordibus vestris

Colossians 3:15 - "Pax Christi exultet in cordibus vestris."
"Let the peace of Christ rejoice in your hearts."

The service of a Christian is not an unfruitful external service, but is a service of the heart. The rites and rituals of the Catholic Church are not mere pomp and ceremony, but bring about what they signify - the Grace of God, transforming us into the image of His Son.

Members of the Sodality commit not only to external precision in their service of the altar, but to maintaining a spiritual life that corresponds to what they are doing: to be servants of the altar not only for the time when they are on the sanctuary, but throughout their lives.

3. Super pauca fidelis

St. Matthew 25:21 "Euge bone serve et fidelis quia super pauca fuisti fidelis super multa te constituam intra in gaudium Domini tui."
"Well done, good and faithful servant, because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will place thee over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord."

Every action of a Christian, no matter how small, can be availing unto salvation provided it is undertaken for the love of Christ. Every word and action in the liturgy of the Church has its importance, because through faithfulness to these small things we serve to God's greater glory.

Members of the Sodality commit to a high standard of service on the altar: to achieving a precise knowledge of the words and the rubrics, and carrying them out correctly and reverently.

4. Servite Dominum in Laetitia

Psalm 99: "Jubilate Domino omnis terra, servite Domino in laetitia, introite in conspectu ejus in exultatione."
"Sing joyfully to God, all the earth: serve ye the Lord with gladness. Come in before his presence with exceeding great joy."

The service of a Christian is a service of joy and gladness, for we serve not an angry deity but our loving Father. Fervent devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and to the Immaculate Mother of Our Lord, express out Joy in service.

"Introibo ad altare Dei, ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam." "I will go up to the altar of God, to the God who gives joy to my youth." These opening words of the Traditional mass indicate that we should serve the Lord in a spirit of love and joy. Serving our Lord on His altar, being present at the eternal sacrifice, receiving the communion of His true Body and Blood, are matter for joyfulness. Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.

Friday 25 June 2010

Saturday prayer to Our Lady - O Domina Mea

This is a lovely prayer to Our Blessed Lady from the Dominican Libellus, where it appears in the Exercitium Quotidianum:

O Domina mea, sancta Maria, me in tuam benedictam fidem ac singularem custodiam et in sinum misericordiae tuae, hodie et quotidie et in hora exitus mei, animam meam et corpus meum tibi commendo; omnem spem et consolationem meam, omnes angustias et miserias meas, vitam et finem vitae meae tibi committo, ut per tuam sanctissimam intercessionem et per tua merita, omnia mea dirigantur et disponantur opera secundum tuam tuique Filii voluntatem.

O my Lady, Holy Mary, I commend myself to thee, my soul and my body, into thy blessed trust and incomparable care, and into the bosom of thy mercy, today and every day and at the hour of my death. I commit to thee all my hope and my consolation, all my sufferings and miseries, my life and the end of my life. By thy most holy intercession and thy merits, direct and dispose all my works according to thy will and the will of thy Son.
(Translation - DF)

Thursday 24 June 2010

More Dominicana - O Lumen Ecclesiae

While the Dominican spirit has taken me, here is the beautiful prayer to St Dominic that is used by the Blackfriars in their priories after Compline.

If you want to hear it chanted, visit:

O lumen Ecclesiae

Doctor veritatis,
Rosa patientiae,
Ebur castitatis,
Aquam sapientiae
propinasti gratis,
Praedicator gratiae,
nos junge beatis.

Light of the Church,
Teacher of truth,
Rose of patience,
Ivory of chastity,
You freely offered
The waters of wisdom,
Preacher of grace,
Unite us with the blessed.

Dominican Liturgy and Servers

It is through the very informative blog of Mr John Whitehead - linked in the right-hand bar - that I have discovered the excellent Dominican Liturgy blog:

I imagine that most readers of this posting will be aware that the Dominican Order - the Order of Preachers founded by St Dominic - has its own traditional liturgy. In this, it is similar to the Carmelites of the Primitive Observance, the Carthusians, and the Premonstratensians.

The current Roman Missal - commonly called the Tridentine Mass or the Rite of St Pius V - was promulgated in 1570 by the papal bull Quo Primum Tempore. In this legislation, the Pope determined that: all priests of Latin Christendom should use this Missal; that nobody should have any fear in conscience in using it; that no priest was obliged to use any other Missal; that nobody should be coerced to alter the Missal; and that this legislation was to remain in force always. Anybody disobeying was threatened with "the wrath of Almighty God and of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul."

"Furthermore, by these presents [this law], in virtue of Our Apostolic authority, We grant and concede in perpetuity that, for the chanting or reading of the Mass in any church whatsoever, this Missal is hereafter to be followed absolutely, without any scruple of conscience or fear of incurring any penalty, judgment, or censure, and may freely and lawfully be used. Nor are superiors, administrators, canons, chaplains, and other secular priests, or religious, of whatever title designated, obliged to celebrate the Mass otherwise than as enjoined by Us. We likewise declare and ordain that no one whosoever is forced or coerced to alter this Missal, and that this present document cannot be revoked or modified, but remain always valid and retain its full force - notwithstanding the previous constitutions and decrees of the Holy See, as well as any general or special constitutions or edicts of provincial or synodal councils, and notwithstanding the practice and custom of the aforesaid churches, established by long and immemorial prescription - except, however, if more than two hundred years' standing." (Quo Primum Tempore)

Now the exception was that Missals of more than 200 years standing - in other words, demonstrably going back beyond 1370 - might still be used. This included the Missals of the Religious Orders I just mentioned; as well as a number of local rites, including the English Rite of Sarum, and the Ambrosian Rite of Milan.

Over the centuries the Dominicans loved their liturgy, and carefully preserved it. There were modifications, including adopting the Roman lectionary. But the differences are still striking. Some Dominicans still have a devotion to the patrimony of their Order, and one of them is Fr Augustine Thompson, who is the editor of the Blog.

Instead of me trying to explain the differences, why not visit the Blog?

My excuse for mentioning this on the SST is that one of the links, down the left-hand side of the page, is to a handbook for Altar Servers in the Dominican Rite. You can download this, and enjoy it to your heart's content. There is much there to learn for us, who are servers at the Tridentine rite.


Liturgical Geography

In the old days, Churches were built to conform to the quite clear and specific requirements of the liturgy and the various other ceremonies which had to take place in them, so that – even if they were small – one could be more-or-less certain that the liturgy could be performed in accordance with the rubrics

Unfortunately, in recent years many older churches have been ‘reordered’ to allow them to be used for the modern form of Mass; and of course many new Churches have been built with no thought of the rubrics at all – and this can cause problems for those of us who are concerned with the Traditional Mass.

Let me give an example. I recently acted as thurifer at a Missa Cantata in a church where, at some point, the High Altar has been moved from its original position in order to allow celebration versus populum, and now stands about four feet further forward than it originally did.

The addition of temporary gradines, and the rebuilding of the Sanctuary Floor to restore the necessary steps, means that this causes no particular problems for the celebration of the Extraordinary Form . . . or does it ?

Well yes, actually : because in the Traditional Mass there are occasions when the Celebrant has to be censed from the Epistle end of the altar; and that is done by two people standing side-by-side. Unfortunately, the effect of having moved the altar forward is that the exact place where they need to stand is occupied by a large (and structural) pillar !

This is obviously not disastrous; the MC and Thurifer simply stand to one side of the pillar, and work at a slight angle – as does the Celebrant. Similarly, the pillar on the other side meant that the Thurifer could hardly get between the Acolytes at the Gospel; but again, standing to one side is acceptable, if not quite what Mgr O’Connell would have preferred.

As you can see; none of these solutions is difficult : but what they do show is that prior thought and preparation is essential . . . something which is a good idea in any small sanctuary, but absolutely crucial in sanctuaries which have been ‘reordered’.

So : unless the sanctuary is obviously spacious enough to ensure that there can be no difficulties, make sure of your geography before the Mass begins, in order to ensure that necessary modifications are planned, rehearsed, and known to everybody – a fundamental requirement for seemly and decent liturgy at any time, but particularly in the Traditional Rite where one has detailed directions with which others are familiar, and on which they may be relying.

If you do not do this, your improvised solution to a problem may have a knock-on effect which makes the whole Mass look disorganised and sloppy; which is not a happy result, and certainly not something for which you want to be responsible.

Saturday 19 June 2010

Prep: Compulsory Reading - "How to serve Low Mass"

The doyen of MC's, Mr Arthur Crumly, has published on his Blog an excellent and thorough guide to serving at Low Mass. This should be compulsory reading for all servers of the traditional mass:

There are doubtless matters of local usage that will differ from Mr Crumly's excellent guide: It is unusual for the server to carry the Missal to the altar nowadays, even though that seems to be in the rubrics; many of us will say the Confiteor before communion, unless the priest objects; and so on.

However, if everyone who serves mass read this guide, and put it into practice, the standard of serving would be improved immeasurably.

Friday 18 June 2010

Prayer of Consecration to Our Lady

Saturday is the day of the week which is traditionally consecrated to Our Blessed Lady. All traditional altar servers must cultivate a fervent and manly devotion to the Mother of God, and certainly this applies to members of the Sodality.

The Secretary of the SST intends to post on this Blog each Saturday a prayer or chant to the Queen of Heaven, as far as he is able. We start the series with a little prayer written by Fr Zucchi, which is used by the Legion of Mary. It is an excellent short consecration to our blessed Lady, and is worth getting by heart.

O Domina mea! O Mater mea! Tibi me totum offero, atque, ut me tibi probem devotum, consecro tibi hodie oculos meos, aures meas, os meum, cor meum, plane me totum. Quoniam itaque tuus sum, o bona Mater, serva me, defende me ut rem ac possessionem tuam. Amen.

My Queen! My Mother! I give thee all myself, and, to show my devotion to thee, I consecrate to thee my eyes, my ears, my mouth, my heart, my entire self. Wherefore, O loving Mother, as I am thine own, keep me, defend me, as thy property and possession. Amen.

Raccolta. 500 days indulgence. Plenary indulgence on the usual conditions, if this act of oblation is repeated every day for a month. (S.C.Ind., Aug. 5, 1851; S.P.Ap., Nov. 21, 1936.)

We should not underestimate the power of learning prayers by heart. As the words and the meaning sink into our minds and our hearts, they work with the grace of God - without which nothing is possible in the life of the soul - to convert us and to renew us for God's service. They are indeed sacramentals.

Modern education underestimates the power of learning by heart. Of course, rote learning can be overdone, when there is no attention to developing understanding. But the wisdom of the ages urges on us learning. In times past, a novice monk had to learn the psalter off by heart as part of his training - the 150 Psalms which are recited or chanted each week according to the Holy Rule of St Benedict. Of course, a server must learn the responses of mass perfectly; using a little card is no long term substitute for proper knowledge.

More on memorization another time ...

But who was Fr Zucchi? I am presuming that he was Fr Niccolò Zucchi SJ, 17th century Italian Jesuit, astronomer, and apostolic preacher, but I can't find out for sure. Anyone know?

Wednesday 16 June 2010

e5 Men and Male spirituality

By definition, full members of the Sodality are going to be male. It is therefore not inappropriate from time to time to add information about male spirituality.

One initiative you might like to know about is e5 men.

e5 does not stands an area of east London, or a square on the chessboard, or a food additive. It in fact means Ephesians 5 - the fifth chapter of the Epistle of the Blessed Apostle Paul to the Ephesians.

The passage that is being referred to is the following:

"Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church, and delivered himself up for it: That he might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life: That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle, or any; such thing; but that it should be holy, and without blemish. So also ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife, loveth himself." Eph. 5:25-28

St Paul explicitly lays out the responsibilities of a husband for his wife - "to love her as Christ loved His church, and delivered himself up for her." The standard of love could not be higher, and includes self-renuniation, and a willingness for sacrifice.

Maleness in the Catholic tradition includes bearing a responsibility for women. This is, above all, what male leadership means in the Catholic church. A leadership not of domination or oppression, but of service and self-sacrifice. All men have a duty to protect, honour, and pray for, women.

What e5 men actually do is to make sacrifices - particularly by fasting - for the women in their lives. For married or engaged men, this clearly included their wives or fiancees. But all of us have mothers, sisters, daughters, female friends - they all need praying for. Consecrated women, religious sisters, widows, spinsters - all need prayer and sacrifice. Women in distress or danger, suffering injustice, persecuted for their Catholic faith - all can benefit from our prayer. Women in Purgatory, particularly those who have nobody to pray for them - we can help them.

The group e5 men - founded by Steven Habisohn in the United States, and with signed up members in over 30 countries - explictly commit to fast on bread and water, once a month - the first Wednesday of the month - for the intention of women. Our Lord Himself said that some devils could only be driven out by prayer and fasting. Fasting is difficult - but it is powerful, it is traditional, it is Christ-like.

To find out more, see the website?

One woman who does not need our prayers, but we need hers, is the Immaculate Queen of Heaven:

O Heart most pure of the Blessed Virgin Mary, obtain for me from Jesus a pure and humble heart.
(The Raccolta, 300 days indulgence)


Welcome to Dominic Mary

The previous post is written by Dominic Mary, one of the MCs of the Society. It is the first of what I hope will be many posts from Dominic Mary, and is excellent advice about external appearance while on the altar. I particularly like the suggestion of a white cravat, and will be raiding my wardrobe to try to find one for my next occasion on the altar.

Dominic Mary's own personal blog - Libera Me - is listed in the blog-roll to the right of this page.


The Very Model of a Modern EF Server

One of my particular ‘things’ is about how Servers look. Although I accept that nowadays they are unlikely to be clerics in the technical sense, it has always seemed to me that they should not – to put it at its lowest – distract the congregation; which means that they should at least maintain clerical standards of appearance.

I’m sure we’ve all see the brightly-coloured trainers, underneath blue jeans, showing beneath a rather-too-short polyester ‘cassock-alb’ – probably with an equally brightly-coloured shirt showing at the neck: indeed, there are times when I think that these monstrosities are the ‘uniform’ of some Novus Ordo parishes.

Servers of the Extraordinary Form, though, have a much easier time of it, because we are bound to conform to the general rules about clerical dress; that is to say cassock and surplice (cotta).

I don’t want to discuss what style of cassock and surplice one should wear; that will usually (and properly) be a matter of local custom; but they should fit. A cassock which is too short looks silly and shows off one’s street clothes; one which is too long endangers the dignity of the ceremonies by making a trip all-too-likely !

More important, though, are a few comments about other aspects of one’s attire; what goes under one’s clerical garb.

First, shoes. These must be black, clean, and conservative in style. I’m not saying they have to be of any particular style; they may be lace-up or slip on, they may even have inconspicuous buckles; but what they must not do is attract attention – and brown shoes, worse still trainers, under a cassock will do that faster than anything.

Socks should also be black – and plain. Those with cartoon characters, or witty remarks, embroidered on the ankles should be saved for other occasions.

Trousers can also be a problem. Three inches of blue denim below one’s cassock is a distraction to the congregation; and particularly for adults, there is much merit in wearing knee socks, and either swapping one’s trousers for shorts, or rolling them up, before serving.

The final issue is the neckline. In Rome – indeed much of Italy – it is quite normal for (at least adult) servers to wear a ‘Roman Collar’ under the cassock, even if they are not ordained; but I quite accept that in most countries this would cause confusion.

However, it seems to me that there are two other solutions which are perfectly workable, and which don’t cause that sort of problem.

Either one can wear a shirt with an ordinary white collar, and simply slip a black stock into it in place of one’s tie (basically the ‘seminarian’s collar’ of olden days), or servers can have what amounts to a white cravat which they can tie around their necks above whatever shirt they have one, so that there is a white ‘neckcloth’ visible at the neckline of the cassock, but one which is obviously not a clerical collar.

I’m sure that some people will think I’m being inordinately fussy making such suggestions: but it seems to me that the first step in serving at the Altar of God is to be prepared to take pains to ensure that one looks as though one believes that it is the very great privilege that it actually is.

Fr Heenan (as he then was) said in ‘The People’s Priest’ : ‘If we recall the day of our first Mass we shall remember the care with which we prepared ourselves body and soul. The Mass we offer each morning is just as important as our first Mass. If there could be any degree of importance I am inclined to say that the last of our Masses will be the most important of them all. And any day may be our last. To be honest with ourselves we must also admit that if the circumstances make a particular Mass of special importance we see to it that we are well groomed . . . occasions such as these would be considered sufficiently important for us to make a careful toilet. If our Faith is strong and our reverence deep every Mass for us will be a highly important occasion.’
 For the devout server, every Mass is an important occasion, and a great privilege: and it is also all-too-often the case that there is little opportunity for making any deep spiritual preparation before it, as there is so much we have to do in preparing for the Mass. The least we can do, then, is to make that ‘remote preparation’ which is involved in grooming ourselves carefully for the service of God which will show Him how much we value the opportunity to approach Him so closely, and serve Him so nearly.

Tuesday 15 June 2010

Moving swiftly on .... time for some Reparation to the Blessed Sacrament

This prayer of Reparation to the Blessed Sacrament, from the Raccolta, was used at the launch of the Sodality in Oxford on 15th May.

It's from the translation of the Raccolta by Fr Ambrose St John, best known as the Birmingham Oratorian who was such a good friend of Cardinal Newman, and who was for a long-period Headmaster of the Oratory School in the early days. A recent biography of Newman refers to him sitting with Fr St John, who would drink brandy and orange, listening while the great man expounded his thoughts.

This 1857 translation of the Raccolta is available

(The "impostors" referred to in the prayer are, I believe, spiritualists, mediums, astrologers, and such like.)

The politically correct, if by any chance such have stayed onto this Blog, are warned that this prayer may not be to their taste.

Prayer of Reparation to the Blessed Sacrament

Jesus, my God, my Saviour, true God and true Man, with that most profound homage with which the faith itself inspires me, I adore and love Thee with my whole heart, enclosed in the most august Sacrament of the Altar, in reparation for all the acts of irreverence, profanation, and sacrilege, which I may ever have been so unhappy as to have committed, as well as for all such like acts that ever have been done, or which may be done, though God forbid they should be, in ages yet to come.

I adore Thee, therefore, my God, not indeed as Thou deservest, nor as much as I am bound to adore, but as far as I am able; and I would that I could adore Thee with all the perfection of which all reasonable persons are capable.

Meantime I purpose now and ever to adore Thee, not only for those Catholics who adore Thee not, and love Thee not, but also in the stead of, and for the conversion of all heretics, schismatics, impious atheists, blasphemers, impostors, Mahometans, Jews, and idolaters.

Jesus, my God, mayest Thou be ever known, adored, loved, and praised every moment, in the most holy and divine Sacrament. Amen.

Monday 14 June 2010

Annus mirabilis 1962?

"Liturgical decline began
In nineteen-sixty-three
(Which was rather late for me) ..."

The Society of St Tarcisius is not a campaigning or controversial organization. It is devoted to giving practical and spiritual support to servers of the traditional mass. However, when honest questions are asked about its aims and objectives, honest answers may be given.

It has been asked, what is mean by the statement in the membership leaflet that: "The Society is specifically committed to the traditional Latin liturgy of the Catholic church, in a form no later than that current in 1962." What is meant by "in a form no later than that current in 1962?"

What is referred to as the 1962 Missal is the revision of the Missale Romanum that came into effect in December 1962. It differed little, to the uneducated eye, from what went before, but there were simplifications to the rite of mass, and some changes to the calendar. This was part of a process that went back at least to 1955 - a simplification of the rubrics, of the calendar, of the text. There was a wide expectation of further revision and simplification, which was of course what happened!

In retrospect, the 1962, though much closer to the traditional missal than anything that came after, was a transitional form - a creeping towards the changes that came later.

Why has the 1962 Missal become the most common one used by traditionalists, and others who make use of what they refer to as the 'extraordinary form'? Partly, of course, because that is what was explicitly authorized by the 1988 Ecclesia Dei indult, and more recently has been referred to in the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum. But the roots seem to go back to the early 1980s, when Archbishop Lefebvre, dealing with disagreements in his Fraternity, decided on the 1962 Missal as a way of excluding a number of hard-liners, who were not flavour of the month at that time. That's all ancient history now; but the 1962 Missal has stuck. Before 1988, at least in England, there was a variety of usage, and quite commonly the rubrics in use before 1962 were adopted.

Many priests who use the old rite say that they want to stick rigidly to the rubrics of 1962, because they believe that their obedience and loyalty to the pope require this. That is a respectable position, though I would observe that very few masses that I have attended have actually observed the revised rubrics fully. The most well-known difference is the omission of the Confiteor before communion, but it's not the only one, and these other changes are commonly ignored.

Whether the rubrics of 1962 are strictly observed or not, I find it difficult to imagine that anyone would argue that this form of the Missal is liturgically perfect - the culmination of the organic development of the Roman Mass. It is clearly a staging post on the way to the Novus Ordo - and that is good or bad, depending on your perspective. If you disapprove of the the changes to the liturgy, then 1962 is less than ideal, because the process has started. If you approve of the changes, then 1962 is less than ideal, because it doesn't go far enough. If anyone wants to maintain the theoretical perfection of 1962, I'd be interested to hear the argument.

Comparisons between 1962 and its predecessors have been made in extenso elsewhere, and need not be rehearsed here. See, for example, the excellent blog of the St Lawrence press, who also publish an excellent ordo:

1962 is the standard 'compromise' Missal, de facto, for 'extraordinary form' masses, at least for the moment. There seems no reason, however, to commit the SST, in its foundational document, to a Missal which many traditionalists would argue is a staging post towards liturgical decline. The SST does not campaign on this issue - after all, as I said, it is not a campaigning organization - and individual members hold their own views on this. Similarly, a variety of views on the Novus Ordo are to be expected; there is no party line.

There are enough schisms in the church, and disagreements among traditionalists. There is a variety of views on when the liturgical decline set in, and what version of the Missal is the last one before the deluge. There is nothing the modernists would like better than to see us rend one another over this issue. Let any debate be courteous, respectful, and self-disciplined, in the true spirit of Catholic tradition.

Benedicamus Domino!


Saturday 12 June 2010

Short form of thanksgiving after mass and communion

For altar servers to use after mass and communion.
1. Almighty God, I thank Thee for the privilege of having served about Thy altar, and for all the graces and blessings I have received in this Holy Mass. I thank Thee for the inestimable gift of receiving Thy most sacred Body and Blood in Holy Communion, bringing refreshment, joy, preservation, and sweetness of heart.
Glory be ...

2. Almighty God, I acknowledge and repent of those faults and negligences that I have committed during this mass, through sin or human weakness; for lack of custody of the mind, the eyes, the hands; for lack of attentiveness; for lack of preparation; for slowness in service. I resolve by Thy grace to amend my life.
Glory be ...

3. Almighty God, I dedicate the rest of this day, and the rest of my life, to Thy service. I resolve to live my life in the spirit of the Mass, uniting myself to Thy Sacred Heart, and being faithful to Thee even unto death. May I always be swift to serve Thee, in matters small and great, always corresponding with Thy graces each moment, and persevering to the end.
Glory be ...

We fly to Thy protection, O holy mother of God. Despise not my prayers in my necessities, but save me from all danger, O ever glorious and blessed Virgin.

Thursday 10 June 2010

Particular Examen for Altar Servers

The Particular Examen is part of traditional Catholic spiritual life. It is sometimes associated more with Ignatian spirituality, since it is given such emphasis in the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius Loyola. However, this is not so; though it was popularized by the Jesuits in their retreats.

The idea this. Central to growth in the ascetic life is examination of conscience. A general examination of conscience is a general overview of our moral behaviour, perhaps using the commandments, or the virtues, as a structure. We are recommended by spiritual masters to make an examination of conscience each evening; liturgically, this is done before Compline, and then we call to mind our failings during the Confiteor. I remember a devout priest saying that the best and fastest way to progress in the spiritual life was to make a careful daily examination.

A particular examination of conscience is tailored to our own needs. What is my predominant moral weakness at the moment? It might be anger, it might be sloth, it might be lust. In the particular examen, I am especially rigorous in looking for this weakness, and for my efforts to overcome it. This follows logically on the general examen, and applies it to our own lives.

There is a useful short article by Fr Hardon SJ, on examination of conscience:

How should altar servers become more diligent about their service of the altar? One tool, is a particular examen for altar servers.

Here is a method.

1. After mass, kneel quietly in the chapel. Make a thanksgiving for all the graces received during Holy Mass, and also during Communion if you have received it.

2. Ask Almighty God for the grace to bring to mind any faults, failings, or negligences that you have committed during your service of the altar, through human weakness or sin.

3. Examine yourself on the details of your service of the altar. Spend a couple of minutes on this. If you find you have many faults, concentrate on remembering the most important two or three, rather than being overwhelmed by many faults.

4. Ask God's pardon for these faults that you have committed, and for grace to improve in the future. Remember always, that our development in the Christian life depends on His grace - without Him, we can do nothing - so ask insistently for grace.

5. If possible, make a resolution to improve next time. Be specific, eg I will practise saying the Confiteor so that I can do it without stumbling or mispronounciation.

6. Say a short prayer of reparation. The 'Obsecro te' from the missal or breviary is ideal for this purpose, since it was identified by Pope St Pius X especially for use by the clergy, to ask indulgence for faults committed during mass owing to human frailty.

7. Finish with a short and joyful prayer to Our Lady, for example the 'Sub tuum praesidium'.

Here be a list.

Here is a list that might be useful during a particular examen. This is a work in progress, and suggestions for improvement of this list will be gratefully received.

Have I remained recollected and reverent at all times?
Have I abstained from chatter, frivolity, gazing around, all irreverence?
Has my posture been reverent, when standing, kneeling, sitting?
Have I given the responses clearly and correctly?
Have I carried out all my actions correctly, at the right time?
Have I avoided both undue haste and undue slowness?
Have I been prompt to assist the priest as needed?
Have I been dressed appropriately for the service of the altar?
Has my dress been clean and modest?
Has my personal appearance been respectable and clean?
Have I attended to the prayers being said?
Have I served with my attention on the altar rather than members of the congregation?
Has anything I have done caused distraction or scandal to anyone?
Did I prepare spiritually for mass by saying a suitable prayer of preparation?
Did I avoid excessive haste by arriving for mass in good time?
Did I leave the sacristy at the end of mass with undue haste, without ensuring that I had assisted with clearing the altar and credence table?
Have I assisted with clearing the altar after mass as required?
Have I made my thanksgiving after mass?

Powerful Prayers.

Obsecro Te. I beseech Thee, most sweet Lord Jesus Christ, grant that Thy Passion may be to me a power by which I may be strengthened, protected, and defended. May Thy wounds be to me food and drink, by which I may be nourished, inebriated, and overjoyed. May the sprinking of Thy Blood be to me an ablution for all my sins. May Thy death prove to me life everlasting, and Thy cross be to me an eternal glory. In these be my refreshment, my joy, my preservation, and sweetness of heart. Who livest and reignest world without end. Amen.

Sub tuum praesidium. We fly to Thy protection, O holy mother of God. Despise not my prayers in my necessities, but save me from all danger, O ever glorious and blessed Virgin.


Tuesday 8 June 2010

Liturgical Gesture

From The Celebration of Mass by Canon JB O'Connell, part 2, chapter 2.

"Liturgical Gesture.
That the actions of Mass may be performed with the greatest reverence, propriety, and dignity, the rubrics regulate in detail the posture, movements, and gestures of the Celebrant. The general principle underlying these minute directions seems to be, not merely that the priest should act efficiently, decorously, and reverently, but also that when he stands at the altar as the representative of Christ he should lay aside, as far as possible, all individual peculiarities, and even the smallest idiosyncrasy, exaggeration, or affectation which might attract attention to himself, and withdraw it from the great Act in which he is engaged. Hence the rubrics concerning the position of the Celebrant's hands, the movements of his eyes, and the various liturgical gestures, aim at eliminating not only what savours of irreverence, indifference, or carelessness, but also all mannerisms or extravagances even of an apparently "pious" character. The rubrics keep the priest's movement, his looks, and his voice, within due bounds - they are laws of restraint. They are rules which aid the priest's personal sanctification, as they constitute a very real spiritual discipline. It is no small act of self-training and self-control, day after day, for example, to genuflect quite erect, or to hold one's outstretched hands parallel to one another and not extended beyond the width of the shoulders, as the rubrics require."

Though this paragraph refers to the Celebrant, the principles apply also to altar servers:

1. Actions should be performed with the greatest reverence, propriety, and dignity;
2. Posture, movements and gestures should be carried out carefully and in accordance with the rubrics;
3. Efficient, decorous, and reverent actions and speech;
4. No idiosyncrasy, exaggeration, or affectation;
5. Nothing that would distract anyone's attention from the mass;
6. Hands and eyes should be controlled;
7. No irreverence, indifference, carelessness;
8. No excessively pious gestures which fall outside what is prescribed;
9. Movements, looks, and voice, should be disciplined.

The restrained spirit of the traditional mass is characteristic of genuine spirituality in the Roman tradition. Rubrics about voice or movement must be carried out; they must be carried out exactly, carefully, devotedly. They must not be done half-heartedly; they must not be exaggerated. Custody of the mind and of the senses must be assured.

At one time, Catholic priests were renowned for their self-discipline. This was modelled on our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who came not to be served, but to serve. Discipline was maintained through the ethos of the traditional mass, office, mental prayer, and rule of life. It was a tried and tested method for working out the salvation not only of the priests themselves, but of their people also. The charism of traditionalist orders and fraternities today is the same, and they are being blessed abundantly by our Lord.

Altar servers, to be worthy of the name of a 'servant of the altar', should strive after the same spirit: the self-discipline of a true soldier of Christ. Of all the actions we carry out in our lives, those that are carried out nearest to the altar touch most closely on our salvation - let these actions be a model for the rest of our lives also. Words clear and correct; gestures precise, manly, and unexaggerated; discipline of our eyes, hands, senses, words. A true and fervent spirit, which regards more the Lord rather than one's self. A remembering in Whose presence we are, and Who we serve.


Monday 7 June 2010

Fathers Dale, Fortescue, and O'Connell

Once upon a time, there were three writers in English on the Rubrics of the Roman Rite.

Act One

First came Fr Hilarius Dale, who wrote "The Ceremonial according to the Roman Rite" in the 1850s, as a translation of the Italian work of Baldeschi. It went through a number of editions, until it was largely superseded by Fr Fortescue's work.

Msgr. Giuseppe Baldeschi (1791-1849) was an Italian Vincentian, who had been MC at the Basilica of St Peter's at Rome. His four-volume Esposizione delle Sacre Cerimonie (A Summary of the Sacred Ceremonies) was first published in 1830, and became the standard text on the Roman Rite.

The original edition was dedicated to Cardinal Wiseman, and was published with his approbation. The first volume of Baldeschi, on the ceremonies of low mass, was omitted, as being less necessary. However, the Pontifical ceremonies for a bishop in his own diocese were not included in Baldeschi, who was writing in Rome, where the diocesan Bishop - being the Pope - has a ceremonial particular to himself. Fr Dale therefore compiled these parts of the book, largely using the Caeremoniale Episcoporum, and his own studies in secondary sources.

Fr Dale said that his work had been done with two objects in mind: "the first, to secure, as far as possible, identity of practice and arrangement in our several churches; the second, to bring them, in their ceremonial provisions, into more complete accordance with the rule of Rome - the centre both of doctrinal unity, and of that ritual uniformity, which is incidentally connected with it." Emphasis on the practice as used in Rome, and advocating its use in England down to the last detail, are entirely characteristic of his book.

A quick survey of the Internet shows that reproductions of both the Italian edition, and a translation by Fr Dale from 1873, are readily available at moderate cost. See for the English edition, at £18.99. This should be in the collection of any serious MC or Rubrician! Alternatively, a scanned version of the original 1853 edition can be downloaded from Google books.

Fr Dale's book went through several editions, certainly into the 1910s. I don't know when the last edition was published, nor do I have a note of the year of death of Fr Dale.

Act Two

Fr Adrian Fortescue (1874-1923) was a scholar of some weight, writing on liturgy and Byzantine scholarship, speaking 11 languages fluently, as well as being an artist, calligrapher, amateur photographer, and adventurer. The late Michael Davies wrote a book called The Wit and Wisdom of Fr Adrian Fortescue, and considered him to be 'the greatest authority on the liturgy of the Roman Rite the English speaking world has ever known'.

In 1907 Fr Fortescue was appointed missionary rector of Letchworth, where he spent the rest of his life. He found the practicalities of parish administration a trial, but was venerated by his parishioners. In order to raise money to build a church in Letchworth, Fr Fortescue set himself to produce a revised edition of Fr Dale's book.

In fact, Fr Fortescue's book Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described, first published in 1918, was more of a new work than a revision of Fr Dale. He conceived a great distaste for the preceding book, being "especially scathing about the over-literal translation, rendering grandiloquent Italian phrases so slavishly that, as he said, the book could hardly be understood without translating it back into Italian."

Fr Fortescue clearly had little taste for his work, which he described as having being done “turpis lucri gratia” (for the sake of filthy lucre), i.e. to raise funds for his church.

“Try to imagine for one solid year of my life... I spent all day comparing Merati & Martinucci & Le Vavasseur, to find out where the thurifer ought to stand before the Magnificat, who takes off the bishop's left glove, what sort of bow you should make at the Asperges. I had to look serious, and discuss the arguments for a ductus duplex or the other thing, whatever it is called, at each candlestick, when you incense the altar. Conceive a man, said to be made in the image of God, spending his time over that kind of thing. Even now that the burden is over it fills me with rage to think of those days. ..."

Fr Tim Finigan has described Fr Fortescue as having "an intimate acquaintance with the rubrics of the Roman Rite, but also a proper appreciation of the spirit of them. Fortescue was not a rubrical pedant and took a practical approach to the ceremonies." (The Life and Work of Fr Adrian Fortescue, by Fr Tim Finigan, is available on the website of the church of Our Lady of the Rosary Blackfen:

In fact, Fr Fortescue had little time for some of the niceties of the Roman Rite, advocating a simplification of the Rubrics. In the preface to the first edition of his Ceremonies, he advocates a reeuction in the number of solita oscula, and of genuflections:

"Two points occur which one might hope the authorities would simplify. One is the constant kissing. Certainly this is a very ancient sign of reverence; in some few cases, as, for instance, to kiss the hand ofa bishop, no one would wish to see it abolished. But would not the actions gain in dignity if the endless kissing of objects and of the celebrant'shand by the deacon ceased? At such a simple action, so constantly repeated, as the deacon performs incensing, are eight "solita oscula." He has to kissthe spoon, the hand, the hand, the spoon; the thurible, the hand, the hand,the thurible. If only from the point of view of artistic effect these repeated inclinations of th head are not graceful. If all kissing werereduced to the chief cases of the paten and chalice and at certain more important moments, of the hand of the bishop, the general effect of a ceremony would be calmer.....In the same way, have we not rather too much genuflection? ..."

In Fr Fortescue's own church, built and adorned partly by the proceeds of his book, the liturgy was carried out to a high standard, and in accordance with the rubrics. Nonetheless, it is clear that his interest was largely in the history of the rites of the mass, East and West, and that ceremonial bored him. Often he shows an impatience to be back to his scholarship, leaving Rubrics to others, who are by implication rather dull ceremonialists.

Despite Fr Fortescue's reluctance, his book has become a standard textbook on the ceremonies of the Roman rite (Tridentine). It has been revised and augmented number of times, by Fr O'Connell, and in the USA by Fr McManus, who brought it up to date and in accordance witht he latest decrees of the Sacred Congregation of Rites. That edition, if you can get hold of it on the second hand market, is highly recommended for those who want to learn the rubrics of the 1962 missal. Earlier editions are also recommended for those who want to learn the rubrics of earlier forms, eg pre-1955.

Lately, a revised edition has been produced by Scott Reid, and published by Farnborough Abbey. Dr Reid has not only incorporated the changes to the rubrics made in 1962, but has also tried to make allowances for the changes in the church since then, for example to the adornment of bishops, and the reform in the Novus Ordo of the minor orders. You can get it for £24.51 from Amazon, if you want. I have to confess, I admire the scholarship of Dr Reid, but I don't like his book. This is because I don't like the various changes which he seeks to incorporate. These changes are not the fault of Dr Reid.

Act Three

Canon John Berthram O'Connell was a secular priest of the Menevia Diocese. Unlike Fr Fortescue, Canon O'Connell was deeply devoted to the detail of the ceremonial and rubrics. After Fr Fortescue's death in 1923, Canon O'Connell prepared the third edition of his book, and over the next forty years prepared nine further editions. Quite rightly is the book we have today referred to as Fortescue-O'Connell, since the hand of O'Connell is apparent, tempering the spirit of Fortescue, too often impatient with the detail of the ceremonies.

Not being content with being a reviser of Fortescue, Canon O'Connell himself wrote a guide to the Rubrics of the Mass. Originally published in 3 volumes in 1942, The Celebration of Mass: A Study of the Rubrics of the Roman Missal, itself quickly became a standard work. It is very detailed and precise, breathing altogether a different spirit to Fortescue. Here was a priest who loved the details of the liturgy, and considered exactness to be a form of spiritual discipline - faithfulness in small things being a virtue. Every gesture, every look, every phrase, betokens love for Christ, and should be carried out with care and devotion. Far from wanting to abolish genuflections, and solita oscula, Canon O'Connell wishes us to know how to carry them out correctly.

The book has been published in various editions, including a one volume "omnibus". The original version included excellent black and white photographs of the ceremonies of the mass, which were taken in the chapel of Prinknash Abbey. Later editions either omit these, or include them in a low quality reproduction.

Preserving Christian Publications has done a great service in bringing back into print the 1964 edition of O'Connell, in a one volume form. It's available from them, or from Southwell Books for £27


Fortescue-O'Connell is a good basic textbook for the Ceremonies of the Roman Rite. It covers the pontifical ceremonies as well as those of low mass and high mass. For pontifical ceremonies, it is recommended. However, its spirit is unduly functional, and indeed careless of the rubrics, so I would not recommend it as a text for Mass, whether Low, or High. It is useful in giving a method for the Missa Cantata which corresponds more or less to current practice in England.

O'Connell is an excellent book on the rites of Mass - Low, High, and to some extent Cantata. It is precise, and is clearly written by someone who not only knows the ceremonies, but values them. As a book designed not only to instruct in the technical details, but also in the spirit of the mass, it is far superior to Fortescue. Some people find him excessively detailed, and there may be truth in this comment. However, if you want to learn the mass, why not learn from someone who not only knew the ceremonies, but entered into their spirit, and took their exact observance as a work of the love of God?

Baldeschi-Dale is an important historical work. It cannot take the place of O'Connell. However, it also exudes the spirit of devotion, and is a useful supplement for those who desire to know more about the sacred ceremonies. For the pontifical ceremonies, when you've read Fortescue, try Fr Dale's version. It is also available freely on line, so why not download it and start using it, while you are saving up for O'Connell?


Saturday 5 June 2010

The dispositions of those serving on the altar

What follows is, in fact, from "The Ceremonial of the Roman Rite" by Joseph Baldeschi, translated by Rev J.D. Hilarius Dale in various editions. It is easy to forget, in an age which is dominated by Fortescue and O'Connell, that this edition of Baldeschi was the standard text in English during the latter part of the nineteenth century. Fr Fortescue disliked its stilted, over-Italianate style - of which more another time - but it does convey a spirit of Romanitas as well as deep devotion, which are sometimes lacking in Fortescue's sometimes over-functional approach.

Baldeschi discusses in the first section the rules to be followed by the clergy in choir. Although he is referring to the clergy, there is much that altar servers can learn from this approach.

Sections from Baldeschi - in bold type - are interspersed with commentary from the Secretary of the SST.

He first discusses external composure. Here is an extract, which might say something about Italian clergy at the time (although one hopes not!):

"10. The clergy should comport themselves in choir with silence, modesty, and recollection; abstaining from everything that would indicate frivolity or irreverence, such as reading letters, talking, giving snuff to each other, gazing about, sitting cross-legged, lolling in their seats, and other acts of this nature. According to the Holy Council of Trent, every ecclesiastic should exhibit a grave and religious deportment in every action:- "Nil, nisi grave, moderatum, ac religione plenum, prae se ferant." How edifying then should be his demeanour at choir, whilst engaged in the actual service of the Most High!"

I haven't actually observed any altar server reading letters, or taking snuff during the course of mass! However, talking, gazing about, lolling, are all known; giggling during the offices is not unknown.

And is it not time that The Council (by which I mean Trent) was implemented: "They should carry themselves with gravity, moderation, and full of religion. "

The next section deals with internal dispositions. Very important, for man sees the appearances but the Lord looks at the heart. I reproduce the passage in full.

"The internal Dispositions necessary to assist with propriety in Choir.

11. A pure intention of worshipping God solely for His glory, and not through self-interest or vanity. Such despicable ends are evinced by those who willingly assist at choir, whenever their presence redounds to their emolument, but absent themselves when no worldly interest accrues ; as also by those who perform their part with propriety before the eyes of men, but who act with a miserable remissness when removed from public notice."

We are on this earth for God's glory. Sole reason for existence. "To know Him, to love Him, to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next." As a consequence of us living for His greater glory, we work out our salvation in fear and trembling. But His glory comes first. At no time must this be more evident than when we serve about His altar.

"12. A foresight of what is about to be done, the better to avoid those inadvertencies which entail a multiplicity of defects. This should be taken before proceeding to choir, by reading the instructions for the ceremony, and bringing them before the mind with a little serious reflection ; and even in choir, by filling up each unoccupied moment with something like the following deliberation :- After this, I must perform such an action, which must be done in such and such a manner. By acting on this principle, nothing will happen without provision, and all will proceed with regularity."

Preparation. It is a truism in all areas of life that "Prior preparation and planning prevents poor performance." But how often have liturgies been conducted - by those who could and should know better - where elementary preparation has not been done? Fortescue has not been consulted; a practice has not been arranged; proper time has not been taken to check that the altar is set out correctly; the responses have not been learnt.

"13. Attention - seriously observing what is going for ward, and not yielding to thoughts even of a virtuous nature, which in such cases have not their source in God, but in an evil power, as they divert us from the good work which is before us. Most powerful inducements to enliven our attention, are to place ourselves in the presence of God, and to accompany in spirit each word and action, attending to their signification, and yielding to those affections of the heart which the language of each prayer should excite, according to the beautiful recommendation which St. Augustine has given us in his glossary of the Tenth Psalm : " Si orat Psalmus, orate ; et si gemit gemite; et si timet, timete. Omnia enim, qua hic conscripta sunt, speculum nostrum sunt." That which St. Augustine teaches us to do while singing the Psalms, we should observe also in whatever is recited or sung in Mass, or in any other holy function. "

A reminder that the devil doesn't always use suggestions of obvious evil to distract us during mass, but things which are good. Not temptations to gross sin, but perhaps thoughts of the good things we are going to do later in the day, or liturgies we are going to attend later. In such a way our attention wanders. Sin is not so much choice of a bad thing in itself, but a choice of something else in the place of God, or an incorrect ordering in the choice of secondary goods.

"14. Devotion, which serves to inspire us with an internal relish for the sacred exercises of religion, and which certainly is not experienced by those who perform them with reluctance and tedium; and against whom the Lord delivers that fearful anathema: " Maledictus homo qui facit opus Dei fraudulenter.""

St Jose Maria Escriva comments somewhere: "Do you find the mass is too long? That's because your love is too short!" If we are not experiencing an internal relish for the sacred offices of the altar, is it because our life of devotion is inadequate? Liturgical prayer and private prayer (vocal, meditation, contemplation, in whatever degree we are graced) are mutually supportive and mutually enriching. Even an accurate care for the externals of the ceremony, if not infused with a spirit of devotion, risks the condemnation of the Lord: "Cursed is the man who does the work of God fraudulently."

How often do we fail to live up to these great ideals? Every time! The Confiteor before Communion is well placed for an altar server, because by that time he will almost certainly need it. There are prayers given in the Roman Breviary, for use by the clergy after mass or the office, in reparation for the deficiencies they have committed owing to human weakness. The altar server would be as well, after mass or the office, to take a little time to conduct a "particular examination" of conscience and say a short prayer to the same effect - begging the Lord's pardon for deficiencies due to human weakness, and asking for grace to improve in the future. Such is the spirit of the Sodality.

Fidelis usque ad mortem.

Thursday 3 June 2010

The Blog of Arthur Crumly

Arthur Crumly was the Principal Master of Ceremonies to the Latin Mass Society for 25 years, and in the view of reliable witnesses is the most experienced and competent MC of the traditional rite in England today. He has recently started a Blog, about Liturgy and Catholic history.


Tuesday 1 June 2010

The Sacristan's Manual

I am at the moment transcribing a number of sections from 'The Sacristan's Manual' by Rev JD Hilarius Dale, for the website. The following striking passage occurs in the preface:

"It may not be inappropriate to add a few words of admonition to Lay Sacristans. They occupy a rank in the Church which is next only to that of the Clergy themselves. Hence, where such an arrangement is practicable, and where the Church has her will and her way without drawback, the Sacristan is a Priest, or at least in Orders. The Pope’s Sacristan is a Bishop - a fact which may be taken as an indication of the importance which the Church attaches to this office. A little thought will show the reasonableness of this estimate of the Sacristan’s duties. In the course of his labours he is brought constantly, and closely, near the Altar of God and the Holy of Holies. He is almost necessitated to touch the sacred vessels and linen ; wherefore, if he have not the right ex ordine, he usually receives it ex officio. The privileges, of which this is but a specimen, are very great and very serious. No one can live in the midst of them and remain the man he was when he entered upon them. No man can be near God without a blessing or a curse. The familiarity with sacred things is, of all habits, the most dangerous where it is not duly appreciated, and its temptations constantly foreseen and counteracted. It is commonly said by Priests, that Altar-boys end in being either angels or the reverse. Now, the first duty of a Sacristan is to weigh the importance of his duties; and it is hoped that even so trifling an effort as the present may lead to this result, by pointing out the necessity of care and cleanliness in all that relates to the Church, and that hence, by the blessing of God, it may indirectly further the ends of personal sanctification."

This passage expresses very well a number of the key principles of the SST. Altar servers - as much as sacristans - are occupying a function that properly belongs to the clergy. There is a minor order in the church of Acolytes, who are clerics, usually on the way to the priesthood, who are specifically instituted by the church to serve on the altar. When laymen serve, we are taking the place which by right belongs to clergy, and we must ensure that we occupy it worthily. The privileges are, indeed, "very great and very serious."

The insight that altar boys end up in being angels or the reverse provides us with a warning. Altar servers approach the Christian sanctuary, attend on the altar of the Lord, and handle consecrated items. If we do this without beseeching God's grace to make us worthy of this office, and doing our human best to correspond with this grace, then we are in danger of falling under the condemnation of the Apostle, of "eating and drinking to our own damnation."

Even carrying out the smallest actions on the altar, but doing them with care and devotion, is a great service to the Lord. We are exhorted to care and cleanliness, to methodical and attentive observance of the Rubrics. By such things as these altar servers fulfil the duties of their office, and work out their own sanctification.

These duties are even more urgent for those of us who serve the Holy Tridentine Mass. Men call it 'Extraordinary' - and so it is, though not only for the reasons that are commonly given. We serve at a liturgy 'not made with hands', which is the work of the Holy Ghost acting through so many saints through the ages. By accepting God's invitation to witness to his holiness through service at the traditional mass, we are setting aside all liturgy which is casual, irreverent, or unworthy of Him. If we participate in a way that manifestly falls short of that required, we run the danger of giving scandal to our neighbour. But if we try our utmost to participate worthily, we contribute to our own sanctification and to that of others.

"Grant O Lord, that what we cannot achieve through our own merits, we may obtain through the intercession of Thy blessed martyr Tarcisius. Amen."