Dom Mark: March 2008 Archives

When a Priest Adores

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Reading the biography of Virginie Danion (1819-1900), foundress of the community of L'Action de Grâces de Mauron, I came upon this excerpt of a letter written to her in November 1855 by the Bishop of Lucon, Monseigneur Jacques-Marie-Joseph Baillès (1798–1873). It so moved me that I translated it from the French. There is nothing, I think, as compelling as the sight of a priest in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. In an age of locked churches, of churches opened only for "services" — ah! the Protestant ring of that! — it is a rare thing. And yet, there is no more effective way of communicating to souls the truth about the Most Holy Eucharist.

"I never go up into the pulpit without seeking to move [souls] to love of the Divine Eucharist, and I often recommend the visit to the Blessed Sacrament. Given that example speaks louder than words, I go habitually to recite Vespers, Compline, and later, Matins and Lauds before the Blessed Sacrament in the cathedral, and at nightfall I make a half-hour's meditation there. The Lord will, I hope, bless these efforts, by stirring up in a greater number of souls the desire to visit the Blessed Sacrament. I say this only for you, so that your heart may be consoled by it. Persevere in your holy undertaking, in the midst of difficulties and contradictions. The railway cars are overflowing with travelers while the avenues leading to churches where the Holy Eucharist resides are deserted. This is truly the hidden and unknown God. Apply yourself to making Him known, praised, loved, blessed and welcomed."

A First Saturday

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Was anyone else struck by the Holy Father's allusion, in today's Regina Caeli message, to the "Marian dimension" of Pope John Paul II's death on the First Saturday of the month? "Many notice," he said, "the singular coincidence, that brought together in itself the Marian dimension — the First Saturday of the month — and the dimension of Divine Mercy." This discreet allusion to Our Lady of Fatima and to her role in the life and in the piety of John Paul II is, to my mind, very significant.

I recall what Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger wrote in 2000:

I would like finally to mention another key expression of the “secret” which has become justly famous: “my Immaculate Heart will triumph”. What does this mean? The Heart open to God, purified by contemplation of God, is stronger than guns and weapons of every kind. The fiat of Mary, the word of her heart, has changed the history of the world, because it brought the Saviour into the world—because, thanks to her Yes, God could become man in our world and remains so for all time. The Evil One has power in this world, as we see and experience continually; he has power because our freedom continually lets itself be led away from God. But since God himself took a human heart and has thus steered human freedom towards what is good, the freedom to choose evil no longer has the last word. From that time forth, the word that prevails is this: “In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). The message of Fatima invites us to trust in this promise.

Wednesday, April 2nd, will be the anniversary of the death of the Servant of God Pope John Paul II in 2005. Friday, April 4th, will be the anniversary of the death of Blessed Francisco Marto in 1919, and of Saint Gaetano Catanoso, the Apostle of the Holy Face, in 1963. Saturday, April 5th, will be the First Saturday of the month. I'm looking forward to a very special week.

Ave, Maria, gratia plena

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This beautiful painting of the Annunciation was the work of 11 year old Joseph Gillain who painted it in 1925, after receiving a box of pastels as a gift. Encouraged by his parents and by his Benedictine schoolmasters at the Abbey of Maredsous, Gillain became a world famous cartoonist. See the exquisite humility of the Virgin and the chaste eloquence of her "Yes," depicted in her outstretched hand. The Archangel Gabriel bows low in veneration of the maiden about to become his Queen. Hovering above is the Holy Spirit, bathing the whole scene in His Divine Light. All of this, the work of an 11 year old boy.

The Annunciation of the Lord
Lady Day

Isaiah 7:10 - 8:10
Hebrews 10:4 – 10
Luke 1:26 - 38

Annunciation and Divine Mercy

Rarely does the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord fall the day after the Second Sunday of Easter, the Feast of Divine Mercy. Might there not be in this an invitation for us to seek out the mystery of the Annunciation in the light of the Divine Mercy, and that of the Divine Mercy in the light of the Annunciation?

The Human Face of Divine Mercy

When the Blessed Virgin Mary said her “Yes” to the message of the Angel, Divine Mercy entered the world and took flesh in her womb. Yesterday Pope Benedict XVI called the Face of Christ “the supreme revelation of the Mercy of God.” Where was that Holy Face formed? In the womb of the Virgin of Nazareth. And what other face did the Face of the Son of God most closely resemble? The face of His Mother, the tota pulchra, the all-lovely one. Mary is, in all truth, the Mater Misericordiae, the Mother of Mercy. Mary gave a human face to Divine Mercy.

When the Time Had Fully Come

No sooner did Mary offer her assent to the plan of God than a tiny human body began to be formed within her virginal womb, a human body indissolubly united to the Divine Son of God. After twenty–four days, the Heart of Jesus, formed by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, began to have regular beats or pulsations. The human Heart of God began to beat beneath the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It was the sound of redeeming love. "When the time had fully come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father' " (Gal 4:6-7).

His Merciful Design

It is through the Blessed Virgin Mary that the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Vessel of Divine Mercy, begins to beat in the world. It is through the Blessed Virgin Mary that the world will be brought to the experience of Divine Mercy. What does she sing in her Magnificat? “He has mercy upon those who fear Him, from generation to generation. . . . He has protected His servant Israel, keeping His merciful design in remembrance” (Lk 1:50, 54).


Pope Benedict XVI Calls the Face of Christ the Supreme Revelation of the Mercy of God

The Holy Father's message at the Regina Caeli today, presents the Vultus Christi, the Face of Christ, as the Face of Mercy. Here is my translation of the Italian text:

Dear brothers and sisters,

During the Jubilee of the Year 2000, the beloved Servant of God John Paul II established that in the whole Church the Sunday After Easter, besides being the Sunday In Albis, should also be named the Sunday of Divine Mercy. This he did in concomitance with the canonization of Faustina Kowalska, the humble Polish Sister, and zealous messenger of the Merciful Jesus, who was born in 1905 and died in 1938.

Mercy is, in reality, the central nucleus of the Gospel message, and the very name of God, the face with which He revealed Himself in the Old Covenant, and fully in Jesus Christ, the incarnation of creating and redeeming Love. This merciful love also illumines the face of the Church, and manifests itself by means of the sacraments, in particular that of Reconciliation, and also by the works of charity, both communitarian and individual.

All that the Church says and does manifests the mercy that God nurtures for man. When the Church must recall a truth that is misunderstood, or a good that has been betrayed, she is compelled to do so by merciful love, so that men may have life, and have it in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10). From Divine Mercy, which pacifies hearts, springs authentic peace in the world, peace among peoples, and among different cultures and religions.

Like Sister Faustina, John Paul II made himself, in his turn, the apostle of Divine Mercy. The evening of that unforgettable Saturday, April 2nd, 2005, when he closed his eyes upon this world, was really the vigil of the Second Sunday of Easter, and many notice the singular coincidence, that brought together in itself the Marian dimension — the First Saturday of the month — and the dimension of Divine Mercy.

In fact, his long and multiform pontificate has herein its central nucleus: all his mission in the service of the truth concerning God and man and peace in the world, is summed up in this proclamation, as he himself said it in Cracow in 2002, when he inaugurated the great Shrine of Divine Mercy. "Apart from the mercy of God, there is no other source of hope for human beings."

His message then, like that of Saint Faustina, leads back to the Face of Christ, the supreme revelation of the Mercy of God. Constantly to contemplate that Face: this is the heritage which he left us, and which we, with joy, receive and make our own.

Pope Benedict XVI
Divine Mercy Sunday
March 30, 2008

In Laetitia

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Saturday of Pascha

The Lord brought forth His people with joy, alleluia:
and His chosen ones with gladness, alleluia, alleluia.
V. Give glory to the lord, and call upon His name:
declare His deeds among the gentiles (Ps 104:43, 1).

One Who Comes to Meet Us

Some of you may be wondering why I chose, during this Easter Octave, to preach each day on the Introit of the Mass. The simple answer is this: one of you asked me to do it. A Sister suggested that it would be a good thing if I meditated on the Introit texts with you. And so I did. But there is another reason. Listen to what Father Maurice Zundel says:

“The Introit greets us at the entrance of the Mass. It is like a triumphal arch at the head of a Roman road, a porch through which we approach the Mystery, a hand outstretched to a crying child, a beloved companion in the sorrow of exile. The Liturgy is not a formula. It is One who comes to meet us.” (The Splendour of the Liturgy)

Toward the Heavenly Sanctuary

The Church gives us eight Introits for the Octave of Easter: one for each day. Each one is a mystic portal opening onto a particular facet of the Mystery and pointing us toward the heavenly sanctuary where, beyond the veil, Christ the Priest stands in glory before the Father.

In Spe, Alleluia

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Friday of Pascha

“The Lord led forth his people in hope, alleluia:
and the sea overwhelmed their enemies,
alleluia, alleluia, alleluia” (Ps 77: 53).

The Day Which the Lord Hath Made

We have arrived at the sixth day of the One Day that is Pascha, “the day which the Lord hath made” (Ps 117:24). We are also at the sixth in a series of eight magnificent Introits. Each of these expresses and, at the same time, impresses on the soul, a particular aspect of the Pasch of the Lord made present and communicated to us in the sacraments. In today’s Introit the Church sings, “The Lord led forth his people in hope, alleluia: and the sea overwhelmed their enemies, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia” (Ps 77:53).

What the Lord Did

The wonders of the Exodus fulfilled in the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Our Lord, and renewed for us in the sacraments, are God’s doing, not ours. Recall the very last line of Psalm 21, the mysterious prophecy of the Passion and Resurrection intoned by Jesus from the Cross: “Generations to come shall speak of the Lord, and declare his righteousness to a people yet to be born: This is what the Lord did” (Ps 21:31) — Haec fecit Dominus.

Brought Out in Hope

Whereas the Hebrew Psalter reads, “He brought them out safely” (Ps 77:53), the Septuagint and the Vulgate, the Psalter used by the Church, has for today’s Introit, “He brought them out in hope.” Saint Albert the Great says that, “hope is the chariot whereon God brings His elect to Himself.” Nothing carries the soul forward as much as the exercise of the virtue of hope. The virtue of hope is not about hoping for this or that thing. It is not about saying, “I hope for good weather tomorrow,” or “I hope that I have enough milk for tea this afternoon.”


A huge thank you to Sandro Magister for providing readers with the Holy Father's six Holy Week homilies. His homily at the Mass of Chrism on Holy Thursday captivated me. My own comments are in italics.

The Essence of the Priestly Ministry

At the same time, Holy Thursday is for us an opportunity to ask ourselves again: To what did we say "yes"? What is this "being a priest of Jesus Christ"? Canon II of our missal, which was probably composed in Rome before the end of the second century, describes the essence of the priestly ministry with the words that, in the book of Deuteronomy (18:5,7), described the essence of the Old Testament priesthood: astare coram te et tibi ministrare.

Pope Benedict XVI goes to the heart of the question. What is the essence of the priestly ministry? He answers it with words drawn from the Sacred Liturgy itself: "astare coram te et tibi ministrare" — to stand before Thee and worship in Thy presence. The priest is one who faces God and waits upon Him. The priest is the eyes of the world fixed upon God, and the hands of the world lifted up in worship before Him. The priest lives his priesthood most intensely when standing before the altar.

Standing Before the Lord

Two functions, therefore, define the essence of the ministerial priesthood: in the first place, "standing before the Lord." In the book of Deuteronomy, this should be interpreted in the context of the previous dispensation, according to which the priests did not receive any portion of the Holy Land – they lived by God, and for God. They did not attend to the usual work necessary for sustaining daily life. Their profession was "to stand before the Lord" – looking to Him, living for Him. Thus, all told, the word indicated a life lived in the presence of God, and thus also a ministry in representation of others.

The priest lives by God, and for God. A young disciple of Blessed Abbot Marmion, Dom Pie de Hemptinne, O.S.B., said something similar; reflecting on his own priesthood, the young Benedictine said that he lived "by the altar, and for the altar." Pope Benedict XVI emphasizes the mediatorship of the priest. The priest lives in the presence of God as the representative of all his brothers; he serves in the sanctuary on behalf of all who, in some sense, stand behind him.

To Keep the World Open to God

Just as the others cultivated the land, from which the priest also lived, so he kept the world open to God, he had to live with his gaze turned to Him. If these words are now found in the Canon of the Mass immediately after the consecration of the gifts, after the entry of the Lord among the assembly gathered in prayer, then they indicate for us the standing before the Lord who is present; it indicates, that is, the Eucharist as the center of the priestly life.


This is brilliant. The priest is a man who "keeps the world open to God." The priest lives "with his gaze turned to God." Underlying these observations is the Holy Father's desire to see restored the traditional position of the priest during the Eucharistic Prayer. The "closed circle" of "versus populum" celebrations is, I think, directly linked to the current crisis in priestly spirituality. When the priest, standing at the altar, faces the crucifix, he offers his own body to "keep the world open to God." By not looking at the people during the Holy Mysteries, the priest exemplifies for them that, "being risen with Christ," they are called to "lift their thoughts above, where Christ now seats at the right hand of God" (Col 3:1).

One Who Watches

But even here its impact goes further. In the hymn of the liturgy of the hours that, during Lent, introduces the office of readings – the office that the monks used to pray during the hour of the nocturnal vigil before God, and for the sake of men – one of the tasks of Lent is described in the imperative: arctius perstemus in custodia – let us be watchful with greater intensity. In the tradition of Syriac monasticism, the monks were described as "those who stand on their feet"; standing on one's feet was an expression of vigilance. What was here considered as the task of the monks, we can reasonably view as being also an expression of the priestly mission, and as a correct interpretation of the words of Deuteronomy: the priest must be one who watches.

Pope Benedict XVI understands that there is no opposition between the monastic vocation and the priestly one. He goes so far as to say that "what was here considered as the task of monks, we can reasonably view as being also an expression of the priestly mission." "The priest," he says, "must be one who watches." How can we not recall the vigils of Saint Jean-Marie Vianney before the altar of the parish church of Ars, the prolonged adorations of Saint Peter Julian Eymard before the Blessed Sacrament exposed in the monstrance, and the passion of Saint Gaetano Catanoso (photo above) for keeping watch before the Eucharistic Face of Christ?

Last October 16th, for the feast of Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, I had the privilege of being in Paray-le-Monial. While there I encountered a brother priest who shared with me something of his own experience of keeping watch in prayer during the night. This priest found in nocturnal adoration a spiritual refreshment and an intimacy with Christ that he found at no other time. The priest, like the monk, is a watchman, for the sake of the people entrusted to his care.

Standing Upright

He must stand guard before the relentless powers of evil. He must keep the world awake to God. He must be one who stands on his feet: upright in the face of the currents of the time. Upright in the truth. Upright in his commitment to goodness. Standing before the Lord must always be, in its inmost depths, also a lifting up of men to the Lord, who, in turn, lifts all of us up to the Father. And it must be a lifting up of Him, of Christ, of his word, of his truth, of his love. The priest must be upright, unwavering and ready even to suffer outrage for the sake of the Lord, as shown in the Acts of the Apostles: they "[rejoiced] that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name" (5:41).

The Holy Father is lucid when it comes to the reality of spiritual combat with the powers of darkness. I find the suppression of the Short Lesson at the beginning of Compline in the reformed Liturgy of the Hours most unfortunate. It is a text that every priest needs to repeat and hear nightly: "Brethren, be sober, and watch well; the devil, who is your enemy, goes about roaring like a lion, to find his prey, but you, grounded in the faith, must face him boldly" (1 P 5:8-9).

Pope Benedict XVI dares to close the gap between the so called "monastic" and "priestly" spiritualities. The "monastic" dimension of the diocesan priesthood becomes apparent to all who take the Holy Father's teaching to heart. It was, I think, precisely the evacuation of "monastic" values from priestly spirituality that contributed in no small measure to the present crisis in priestly life and in vocations. "Listen, you that have ears, to the message the Spirit has for the churches" (Ap 2:7).

Sapientia aperuit os mutum

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Thursday of Pascha

Your victorious hand, O Lord,
have they magnified, with one accord, alleluia:
for wisdom has opened the mouth of the dumb,
and made the tongues of infants vocal with praise,
alleuia, alleluia (Wis 10:21-22).

Praise of Wisdom

Today’s Introit, the fifth of eight given us by the Church during this week of glory, is drawn from the 10th chapter of the book of Wisdom. The passage that is sung in the Introit is best understood by placing it in its context: a praise of the wonders wrought by Holy Wisdom during the Exodus.

“She . . . led them out on their miraculous journey, affording them shelter by day and starry radiance by night. She made a passage for them through the Red Sea, brought them safely through those leagues of water, and churned up the bodies of their drowned enemy from those unfathomed depths. So, enriched by the spoils of the godless, they extolled, O Lord, thy holy name, proclaimed with one voice thy sovereign power; Wisdom opened the dumb mouths, and made the lips of infants vocal with praise” (Wis 10:17-21).

The Mysteries of Initiation

Who is Holy Wisdom? As we know from the Great O Antiphon of December 17th, Wisdom, Sapientia, designates none other than Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of the Father. The Church confesses that Christ led out the catechumens on their miraculous journey into the font of Holy Baptism, and out of the font to the altar of His Sacrifice. The neophytes are characterized, above all, by the praise of Christ that comes to flower on their lips in the celebration of the Eucharist.

Adoration: March 27, 28, 29

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Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of this week, at the Monastery of the Glorious Cross, 61 Burban Drive, Branford, Connecticut, there will be adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament from after the 11:50 a.m. community Mass until 3:00 p.m. Adoration will conclude with Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament at 3:00 p.m., the Hour of Divine Mercy.

The Blessed Sacrament will be exposed in a monstrance blessed by the Servant of God, Pope John Paul II, shortly before his death on the Vigil of the Feast of Divine Mercy, April 2, 2005, for the worldwide movement of Eucharistic adoration for priestly vocations.

"The worship of the Eucharist outside of the Mass is of inestimable value for the life of the Church. This worship is strictly linked to the celebration of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. The presence of Christ under the sacred species reserved after Mass – a presence which lasts as long as the species of bread and of wine remain – derives from the celebration of the sacrifice and is directed towards communion, both sacramental and spiritual. It is the responsibility of Pastors to encourage, also by their personal witness, the practice of Eucharistic adoration, and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in particular, as well as prayer of adoration before Christ present under the Eucharistic species.

It is pleasant to spend time with him, to lie close to his breast like the Beloved Disciple (cf. Jn 13:25) and to feel the infinite love present in his heart. If in our time Christians must be distinguished above all by the “art of prayer”, how can we not feel a renewed need to spend time in spiritual converse, in silent adoration, in heartfelt love before Christ present in the Most Holy Sacrament? How often, dear brother and sisters, have I experienced this, and drawn from it strength, consolation and support!

This practice, repeatedly praised and recommended by the Magisterium, is supported by the example of many saints. Particularly outstanding in this regard was Saint Alphonsus Liguori, who wrote: “Of all devotions, that of adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is the greatest after the sacraments, the one dearest to God and the one most helpful to us”. The Eucharist is a priceless treasure: by not only celebrating it but also by praying before it outside of Mass we are enabled to make contact with the very wellspring of grace. A Christian community desirous of contemplating the face of Christ in the spirit which I proposed in the Apostolic Letters Novo Millennio Ineunte and Rosarium Virginis Mariae cannot fail also to develop this aspect of Eucharistic worship, which prolongs and increases the fruits of our communion in the Body and Blood of the Lord."

Pope John Paul II
Ecclesia de Eucharistia

Sacred Triduum in Buffalo

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Father Jacob Restrick, O.P., Mother Mary Gemma, O.P., and the community of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Buffalo, New York were most gracious hosts during the Paschal Triduum. My friendship with Father Jacob goes back thirty years. It was a joy to see him again and to serve at the altar with him.

The Dominican Nuns of the Buffalo monastery sing Gregorian Chant, using both the Roman Gradual and the chant books proper to the Order of Preachers. I was invited to sing the Exultet in Latin, using the distinctive Dominican melody with its glorious melisms over key words, such as haec.

This was, by far, the most restful Sacred Triduum I have had in over three decades. Father Jacob and I were able to share the preaching and the officiating. Paul Z. acted as Master of Ceremonies with his customary competency. The community took care of the chant. It was lovely to be able to take a more quiet approach to the heart of the liturgical year!

On Holy Saturday morning, I was very happy to meet young Brendan Y., a Vultus Christi reader in Buffalo. In the afternoon, Father Jacob drove us to Lackawanna to visit the magnificent Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Victory, built by Father Nelson Baker in 1925.

Easter Sunday Mass was at 8:30. After a festive breakfast, Father Jacob drove Paul Z. and me to the airport to catch our flight back to Connecticut. Deo gratias, alleluia, alleluia.

Christ is risen!

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Christ is risen!
Christ is risen!
Christ is risen!

More majestic than the crashing thunder
that echoed in the night!
Christ is risen!
In a silence more thunderous
than the cracking of the heavens over our heads,
Christ is risen!!
In a brightness brighter
than the lightning that illumined even the ravines around us,
Christ is risen!
“For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky
from one side to the other,
so will the Son of Man be in His day” (Lk 17:24).
Christ is risen!

David sings the mystery
and the Church takes up his song!
This is the night foretold in prophecy:
“And the night shall be enlightened as the day;
and the night is my light and my delight” (Ps 138:12),
for Christ is risen!

Tonight the light of His Face is signed upon us,
for Christ is risen!
Tonight the veil is lifted from the Countenance of Love,
for Christ is risen!

Blessed the veil that covered His beauty in death!
Blessed the veil that Simon Peter saw,
“not lying with the linen cloths
but rolled up in a place by itself” (Jn 20:7),
for Christ is risen!

Holy Saturday

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"The last day of Holy Week: a fruitful stillness before the breathtaking action of the night. Perhaps only the greatest Russian writers have succeeded in painting it as it is, a pause, a last moment of waiting, made holy by the Lord's rest in the tomb. The Church is waiting at the tomb and weeps. She sees where the Lord has been laid, where the woman had buried Adam, where man is buried where he had come to grief through her evil counsel. She sees it and weeps. She weeps at the Lord's tomb, as the Lord wept for Lazarus': for sin which killed the giver of all life. But her tears are soft, and she is at peace. . . . The death of Adam has lost its terrors in the tomb of Christ. The death for obedience' sake has snuffed out sin. No longer does a massa damnata blunder on from sin to sin and death to death, but the body of the obedient Christ rests in hope. A foreboding of the happy chance of fault which merited such and so great a redeemer. It is a foreboding of the blessedness of suffering earning 'the name which is above all names', and the 'glory of God the Father', which makes the seers — men and the Church — at peace and full of hope."

D. Aemiliana Löhr, The Great Week

Timely Mercies

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Paul Z. and I arrived in snowy Buffalo last night after a nine hour trip. Father Jacob was at the airport to welcome us. You can imagine my joy when, shown to my room, the first thing I saw was an image of the Vultus Christ, the Holy Face of Christ, on the wall. After a good night's sleep and a brief meeting to look over this evening's Mass In Cena Domini, I was happy to repair to the chapel for a time of adoration. As I had not yet said Lauds, I did it then.

Savouring the Grace

As much as I love chanting the Divine Office in choir, there is a special unction attached to praying the Hours quietly in solitude, or alone before the Blessed Sacrament. One is free to pause frequently, to linger over a particular verse and to savour the grace concealed within it. After such experiences, one returns to the Choir Office refreshed and more attentive.

The Sacramental Word

Certain verses of the psalms and canticle, incisive and fresh in the translation of Monsignor Knox, were like sacramentals, communicating a particular grace as soon as they made contact with the "palate of the soul."

From Psalm 50:

Have mercy on me, O God,
as thou art ever rich in mercy.

In the abundance of thy compassion,
blot out the record of my misdeeds.

My God, bring a clean heart to birth within me:
breathe new life, true life, into my being.

From Psalm 89:

And at last thy hand comes upon us in mercy,
for our correction.

Alas, that so few heed thy vengeance,
measure thy anger by the reverence we owe thee!

With such correction thou must needs assert thy power,
chasten us and make us wise.

Relent, Lord; must it be for ever?
be gracious to thy servants.

For us thy timely mercies:
for us abiding happiness and content;

Happiness that shall atone for the time when thou didst afflict us,
for the long years of ill fortune.

Look upon thy servants, thy own fashioning,
and be the guide of their posterity.

Brightly may the splendour of the Lord shine upon us!
Prosper our doings, Lord,
prosper our doings yet.


What a glorious depiction of the Precious Blood of Christ pouring forth from His five wounds into the chalices held by four saints! I recognize Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Francis of Assisi, a cardinal who may be Saint Charles Borromeo and, on the extreme right, a figure who appears to be in a Cistercian habit. Saint Bernard? The painting is by an unknown Spanish artist of the XVIIth or XVIIIth century.

I will be leaving in a few hours to spend the Sacred Triduum with my friend, Father Jacob, O.P. at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Buffalo, N.Y. This will allow me to have a more restful Triduum than in the past. Father Jacob and I will alternate officiating at the various solemn Offices. Father Peter John, O.P. will be replacing me for the Sacred Triduum at the Monastery of the Glorious Cross in Branford, CT.

I don't know if there will be an internet connection in Buffalo. Readers of Vultus Christi can always go to the archives for Sacred Paschal Triduum 2007. If at all possible, I will try to post something from Buffalo.

My choice for the best reading during the Sacred Triduum remains The Great Week, by Dame Aemiliana Löhr, O.S.B. I know of no better commentary on the Holy Week Liturgy.

In another vein, László Dobszay offers a compelling critique of the present reformed rites of the Paschal Triduum in The Bugnini Liturgy and the Reform of the Reform. It may be better not to read this during the Triduum. Save it for another time.

His Excellency, Bishop Allen H. Vigneron of the Diocese of Oakland wrote a splendid pastoral letter on the Precious Blood of Christ. Be sure to read it here.

Nos autem

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Tuesday of Holy Week

Isaiah 49:1–6
Psalm 34:13, 1–2
John 13:21–33, 36–38

The Eucharist and the Cross

Today’s Introit is the very one that we will sing on Maundy Thursday on the threshold of the Sacred Triduum: “It is for us to glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom is our salvation, life, and resurrection: through whom we have been saved and set free” (cf. Gal 6:14). We are given it today in a kind of contemplative rehearsal of the mysteries that will unfold. We are to sing it, and to hear it, in a Eucharistic key. We glory in the Eucharist as we glory in the Cross because the Eucharist is the sacramental demonstration of the Cross. Is this not what the Apostle teaches? “For as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink the chalice, you shall show forth the death of the Lord, until he comes” (1 Cor 11:26). The Eucharist makes present the Cross. The Eucharist is the sacrifice of the Cross set before the eyes of faith, not as something dim and ineffectual, but as an astonishing inbreaking, here and now, of “the power of God and the wisdom of God”(1 Cor 1:24). This is the source of our “Eucharistic amazement.” This is this realization that leaves us, together with the saints of every age, “lost, all lost in wonder.”

O Great Passion

The Eucharist is the awful reality of the Christus passus. The mystery of the suffering Christ is made present to us and for us. For our healing, his wounds are pressed against ours. For our cleansing, his Blood flows impetuous like a torrent. For our life, his breath is given over in death. The Eucharist is the Crucified “lifted up and drawing all men to himself”(cf. Jn 12:32). It is the Eucharist that causes us to cry out, “O great Passion! O deep wounds! O outpouring of Blood! O death suffered in every bitterness, give us life.”

Tell Me Where You Were

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Abba Joseph related that Abba Isaac said, 'I was sitting with Abba Poemen one day and I saw him in ecstasy and I was on terms of great freedom of speech with him, I prostrated myself before him and begged him, saying, 'Tell me where you were." He was forced to answer and he said, "My thought was with Saint Mary, the Mother of God, as she wept by the cross of the Saviour. I wish I could always weep like that."

Grant Us Breathing Space

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Monday of Holy Week

Today's Collect is, without any doubt, one of the most poignant of the whole liturgical year. Here it is in the original Latin, and in three different English translations:

Da, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus,
ut, qui ex nostra infirmitate deficimus,
intercedente unigeniti Filii tui passione, respiremus.
Qui tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti,
Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum.

The Marquess of Bute renders it thus:

O Almighty God,
Which knowest that we be in such straits
that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves,
we pray Thee mercifully to relieve us
for whom continually pleadeth the Suffering of Thine Only-Begotten Son.
Who liveth and reigneth with Thee
in the unity of the Holy Ghost,
one God, world without end.

Monsignor Knox gives this:

Fainting, thou seest us, Almighty God;
so many perils about us, and we so frail!
Let but the Passion of thy only-begotten Son come between,
to grant us breathing space:
who with thee in the bond of the Holy Spirit
liveth and reigneth and is God,
world without end.

And here is my translation:

Grant, we beseech you, almighty God,
that we who, out of the infirmity that is ours, falter and fail,
may once again breathe freely
through the intercession of the Passion of your only-begotten Son,
who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God forever and ever.

Spes Mea

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Monday of Holy Week

Isaiah 42:1-7
Psalm 26:1, 2, 3, 13-14 (R. v. 1a)

But After I Shall Be Risen

The bright eighth mode intervals of last evening’s Magnificat Antiphon still echo in our hearts: “It is therefore written: I will strike the shepherd and the sheep of the flock shall be dispersed; but after I shall be risen, I will go before you into Galilee. There you shall see me, says Lord.” Over the words, postquam autem resurrexero — “but after I shall be risen” the melody leaped upward in an uncontainable burst of paschal triumph, ringing out an irrepressible joy.

You Shall See Me

Yesterday, we were in Jerusalem, the holy city of the sufferings of Christ, but the Magnificat Antiphon at Second Vespers already promised us a reunion with the risen Lord in Galilee. “There you shall see me.” Through the text and melody of the antiphon one hears that other promise of the Lord in Saint John’s gospel: “So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (Jn 16:22).

Says the Lord

The cadence over the words, dicit Dominus — “says the Lord,” is strong and full of hope, leaving us utterly certain of the outcome of this Great Week’s bitter agony and sufferings. “This is our comfort,” writes Dame Aemiliana, “we shall see Him again. First Judea and Jerusalem, judgment, death, the tomb. Then Galilee, life and sight. . . . Life hangs on the issue of death; whoever goes with the Lord to die, goes with Him to live and rule; whoever dares to go the way to Jerusalem will not miss the way to Galilee.”

The Most Precious Blood

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One cannot enter into Holy Week without contemplating the adorable mystery of the Precious Blood. I am completely smitten by Bernini's little known depiction of the Blood of Christ. The Eternal Father contemplates the outpouring of the Blood of the Son. The Angels are awestruck by what they see. Blood pours out of the hands, and feet, and open side of the Crucified.

The Mother of Jesus, she who is the perfect image of the Church, raises her hands to receive the crimson torrent gushing from the inner sanctuary of His Sacred Heart. Beneath the Cross there is an ocean of Blood: Blood to cleanse the world of every stain of sin, of every crime, of every defilement. If you would know the value of the Precious Blood, ask the Mother of the Lamb.


Priests and the Precious Blood

"My maternal heart yearns to lead all my priest sons into the presence of my Jesus, the Lamb by Whose Blood the world is saved and purified of sin. My priest sons must be the first to experience the healing power of the Blood of the Lamb of God. I ask all my priest sons to bear witness to the Precious Blood of Jesus. They are the ministers of His Blood. His Blood is in their hands to purify and refresh the living and the dead.

Apply It to Your Wounds

I desire that all priests should become aware of the infinite value and power of but a single drop of the Blood of my Son. . . . Adore His Precious Blood in the Sacrament of His Love. His Blood mixed with water flows ceaselessly from His Eucharistic Heart, His Heart pierced by the soldier’s lance to purify and vivify the whole Church, but in the first place, to purify and vivify His priests. When you come into His Eucharistic presence, be aware of His Precious Blood streaming from His Open Heart. Adore His Blood and apply it to your wounds and to the wounds of souls.

Purity Wherever It Flows

The Blood of my Son brings purity and healing and new life wherever it flows. Implore the power of the Precious Blood over yourself and over all priests. Whenever you are asked to intercede for souls, invoke the power of the Precious Blood over them, and present them to the Father covered with the Blood of the Lamb."

Solemnity of Saint Joseph

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General Intercessions

That the Holy Catholic Church, entrusted to the protection of Saint Joseph,
may continue to bear witness to the sanctity of human life
from the moment of conception until natural death,
let us entreat the Lord. R. Look upon us, and have mercy.

That bishops and priests may seek the intercession of Saint Joseph to whom God entrusted the safekeeping of the Living Bread from Heaven,
and, like him, learn to trust the Eternal Father, believing in the night, and hoping against hope,
let us entreat the Lord. R. Look upon us, and have mercy.

That the leaders of nations
may turn from the path of destruction, bloodshed, and war,
let us entreat the Lord. R. Look upon us, and have mercy.

That, through the intercession of Saint Joseph,
children may be spared the horrors of war,
refugees comforted in their flight,
and the elderly surrounded with companionship and care,
let us entreat the Lord. R. Look upon us, and have mercy.

That priests living in situations of difficulty, transition, or spiritual struggle
may find in Saint Joseph
a model of faith in the night, obedience in adversity,
chastity in tenderness, and hope in uncertainty,
let us entreat the Lord. R. Look upon us, and have mercy.

That the dying
may experience the nearness of Saint Joseph in their final hour,
and pass, in his company, from darkness to light,
let us entreat the Lord. R. Look upon us, and have mercy.

That it may be given us,
and through the prayer of Saint Joseph,
to accept with faith every displacement, change, or journey
willed or permitted by Divine Providence,
let us entreat the Lord. R. Look upon us, and have mercy.


Almighty and ever-living God,
who led Saint Joseph from one place to another by night,
with no light save that which burned within him,
grant us, we beseech you,
a share in his spirit of trusting obedience,
that accompanied by him in all our journeys,
it may be given us to take comfort in the nearness of your Christ
and of his Virgin Mother,
and to pass, at length, through the mystery of the Cross
into the brightness of the Resurrection.
Through the same Christ our Lord.

The Virgin of the Passion

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Commemoration of the Compassion of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Did you know that tomorrow, Friday in the Fifth Week of Lent (Passiontide), is the Commemoration of the Compassion of the Blessed Virgin Mary? The 2002 edition of the Missale Romanum restored this most fitting commemoration to the Roman liturgy.

To this end, a new Collect was composed:

O God, who during this time graciously grant to your Church devoutly to imitate blessed Mary in contemplation of the Passion of Christ, grant us, we pray, through the intercession of the same Virgin, to cling each day more firmly to your Only-Begotten Son,and to come at length to the fullness of his grace. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever.

The Roman Missal of 2002 also added to the chants of the Good Friday adoration of the Cross, the well-known sequence, Stabat Mater, thus marking in another way the presence of the sorrowful Mother close to that of her suffering Son.

These two commemorations of the Compassion of the Blessed Virgin, the first on the Friday Within the Fifth Week of Lent, and the second, a week later, on Good Friday, invite us to stand by the Cross of Jesus with Mary his Mother, whose soul a sword of sorrow has pierced.

In our General Intercessions at Holy Mass, mindful of the "widowed Church" of Mosul in Iraq, we will pray:

That the Holy Catholic Church in Iraq,
suffering and crucified with her Lord and Bridegroom,
may take comfort in the Compassion of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
and find in her all-powerful intercession a source of perpetual help,
let us entreat the Lord. R. Look upon us, and have mercy.

The Image

The most famous image of the Compassion of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the miraculous icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help, also known as the Virgin of the Passion. Be sure to visit Father Scott Bailey's Mother of Perpetual Help website. Look for three characteristics in the icon of the Virgin of the Passion:

1) The depiction of the instruments of Our Lord's Passion, the Lance and the Sponge, the Cross and the Nails, carried by the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel.

2) The movement of the Child Jesus who gazes towards the instruments of His Passion, and seeks comfort in the arms of His Most Holy Mother. The sole of one of His feet is exposed, His sandal having fallen loose as He hastened to His Mother. The sandal hangs by its laces from His foot.

3) The Mother of God gazes out of the icon into what lies beyond it. She contemplates not only the sufferings of her Infant Son, but also the sufferings of the members of His Mystical Body. The compassion in her eyes is directed to all who, according to the word of her Crucified Son, became her children on Calvary. "Woman, behold thy son" (Jn 19:26).

Behold, You Are Invited

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Readers of Vultus Christi who are not familiar with the Chaldean Catholic Church may want to look at the website of Saint Peter the Apostle Catholic Diocese for Chaldeans and Assyrians in the United States of America. You will find there, among other things, the magnificent texts, in English translation, of the Chaldean Mass, more properly called "The Rite of the Divine Mysteries of the Church of the East of the Chaldeans and Assyrians."

Chaldean Vespers Hymn for the Sixth Sunday of Lent

“Who is the doctor who can cleanse my hidden wounds?
O, will he be able to heal and to cure [them]?
O who will be able to deliver me from the fire?” [thus] cried the adulteress.
“I will unravel the tangles of sin, and draw near to the Lord and Savior.”
For indeed, he did not cast the tax-collector away from him,
and with his speech, he converted the Samaritan woman.
With his word, he gave life to the Canaanite woman,
and to the hemorrhaging woman he gave healing with the hem of his cloak. With his merciful word, he freed the adulteress from her sins, and invited her to the book of life with the saintly women. Along with them, my soul says at all times: blessed is the Messiah our Savior!

Our Lord has given the medicine of repentance
to the skilled physicians who are the priests of the Church.
So let anyone whom satan has struck with the diseases of wickedness
come and show his wounds to the disciples of the Wise Physician,
and they will heal him with spiritual medicine.

Chaldean Liturgy

"They Have Killed Our Shepherd"

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At the end of Holy Mass today at the Monastery of the Glorious, we sang the antiphons In Paradisum and Chorus Angelorum for the repose of the soul of His Grace, Archbishop Paulos Fraj Rahho.

Adapted from the official Chaldean Community Website:

Mosul, IRAQ – The Chaldean community around the world stands numb and in disbelief at news of the death of Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho of Mosul.

Outcry from world leaders held no sway as fanatical terrorists proved once more that women, children, medical providers, and now spiritual leaders are not safe from their killing spree. “These are innocent people that want to help bring peace. They kill them, because they are filled with hate. These barbarians have no faith in anything, but their own rise to power,” said Omar Touma, a recent refugee and Chaldean parishioner of the Good Shepherd Chaldean Church in Canada.

In Sinu Jesu

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When the Heart of Jesus speaks to the heart of a priest . . .

Your Divine Friend

"You and so many of your brother priests do not know Me as I would have you know Me. Many of you are strangers to My Heart. Come close to Me. Remain in My presence. Seek My Eucharistic Face. Learn of My love for you and you will begin to trust in it. I am not harsh. I am not a taskmaster. I am your Divine Friend. I am your Advocate, your Comforter, your Refuge in every trial. Those who persevere in seeking My Eucharistic Face will begin to read there all the secrets of My Heart, that is, the unsearchable depths of My love for souls and, in the first place, for My priests.

Prolong My Presence in the World

This is the root of the evil that eats away at the priesthood from within: a lack of experiential knowledge of My friendship and love. My priests are not mere functionaries; they are My chosen ones, the friends whom I chose for myself to live in such communion of mind and heart with Me that they prolong My presence in the world. Each priest is called to love My Church with all the tender passion of a bridegroom, but to do this, he must spend time in My presence. He must experience Me personally as the Bridegroom of his soul.

My Eucharistic Face

I want you to call priests to the experience of My friendship. Show them how to remain before My Eucharistic Face by giving them an example of adoration and reparation. Draw near to My Open Side in the Sacrament of My Love for them and in their place, and they will begin to follow you there. Reach out to My priests, not so much by speaking to them, but rather by reaching out to Me for their sake.

My Wounded Heart

I tell you again: I want you to be My priest-adorer, the priest-adorer of My Eucharistic Face and of My Heart hidden in the Sacrament of My Love. My Heart is wounded even in My glory. It is My wounded Heart that you find when you approach Me in the Most Holy Eucharist. And from My wounded Heart there flows a ceaseless torrent of merciful love to purify souls, to strengthen, heal, sanctify, and glorify them. The mystery of My Sacred Heart hidden in the Sacrament of My Love is still so little known. I want all My priests to know that in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar there beats for them a living Heart, a Heart all aflame with the most tender love.

Faithful Companion

There is no need for My priests to go through life isolated, lonely, and friendless. I want to be the Faithful Companion of their days and of their nights. I want to be their solace and their rest. I want to be their Friend, ever ready to listen to them, to welcome them, to heal them, and renew their hope. Oh, if only they would seek Me out in those tabernacles where I wait for them, in those tabernacles where no one joins Me in My ceaseless prayer to the Father.

In the Sacrament of My Love

Never miss an opportunity to greet Me, to adore Me, to remain with Me, even if only for a moment, in the Sacrament of My Love. In eternity you will see the inestimable value of every moment spent in My Eucharistic presence."

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Numbers 21: 4–9
Psalm 101: 1–2, 5–17, 18–20 (R. 1)
John 8: 21–30


The Serpent and the Cross

Today the Church gives us a passage from the Book of Numbers that, from earliest times, the liturgy and the Fathers have associated with the mystery of the Cross. This same passage provided Father Luc de Wouters, O.S.B. with the title of his biography of the foundress of the Congregation of the Benedictines of Jesus Crucified, Mother Marie des Douleurs Wrotnowska: Le Serpent et la Croix, The Serpent and the Cross.

The Bite of the Serpent

Father Luc writes: “The episode of the bronze serpent recounted in the Book of Numbers seems to us extremely significant. It projects onto the mystery of the redemptive Cross a light, the importance of which we do not sufficiently grasp.” He writes that Mother Marie des Douleurs encountered the Cross, as we all do, in her own sin. For her, as for all of us, sin was the bite of the fiery serpent. It was, nonetheless, upon this cross, the cross of her own brokenness, weakness, and sin identified with the Cross of Jesus, that she was united with the Saviour, l’Homme des douleurs. The cross of her disfiguration by sin and weakness, assimilated to the Cross of the “Man of Sorrows, acquainted with grief” (Is 53:3), became the Cross of her transfiguration by grace.

The Mystery of Iniquity

Father Luc, with no little eloquence, emphasizes that the Cross is the last word of the Incarnation. We are certain of meeting the Cross at every moment of our existence. Whenever we find darkness all about us, the darkness of our own sins and of the sins of the world, the Cross shines like a saving beacon. Personal sin causes an intimate anguish that only the Cross can alleviate. Consciousness of the evil that inhabits us, and of the evil that stalks the world, brings with it a terrible anguish. Our Lord’s agony in Gethsemani was the manifestation of the anguish of His Heart in the face of the mystery of iniquity.

Wounds Uncovered

It is easy to become hypnotized by the shadow of evil cast by the serpent. How many souls, instead of lifting their gaze to the Crucified, turn in on themselves, see their sin, and sink in the quicksand of despair. Sin, our own sin and the sin of others, exercises a morbid fascination on us. The remedy is to look upon “Him who they have pierced” (Jn 19:37), and to believe in the love of Jesus Crucified. The remedy is to expose our wounds, however purulent and shameful they may be, to the wounds of the Crucified, for “by his wounds we are healed” (1 P 2: 24). One of the prayers before Mass in the Roman Missal has us say: “To thee, Lord, I uncover my wounds; to thee I lay bare my shame. My sins, I know, are many and grievous; they fill me with fear, but my hope is in thy countless mercies.”

When Priests Find A Bethany

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I thank my friend Lisa for her wise and compassionate words to Sotto Voce, the Irish priest so many of us are carrying in prayer. Lisa wrote:

"Dear Father, you describe so poignantly the sorrow in your life and the weariness you feel from the service you give to the Lord and to others. You are grieving and weary - you need rest and the opportunity to grieve supported by friends who can give that tangible touch so meaningful to healing. Christ healed with touch, it is an essential human expression. Know that Christ will comfort you when you go before Him - a hour of companionship means telling him everything. And He will give you peace. Peace which family members and friends do not possess. Christ also shared time with friends - you can be friends with married couples and families - you may be suprised how willing they are to invite you into their homes and lives. Like Mary, Martha and Lazarus, there are people waiting to befriend you and support your vocation. And perhaps help you grieve all those tragic deaths you are still carrying in your heart."

Thank you, Lisa, for speaking to a brother priest out of your experience.


My doctoral dissertation — it seems so long ago — focused on the Proper Chants of the Paschal Triduum in the Graduale Romanum. The chants of the Church are, in effect, nothing less than sung theology. Among the chants of the Triduum is the Pange Lingua of Venantius Fortunatus (different from the Pange Lingua composed by Saint Thomas Aquinas); it is sung at the Solemn Celebration of the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday, but also sung at the Divine Office beginning with the Fifth Sunday of Lent. I thought I might share with the readers of Vultus Christi, something of what I learned in singing, praying, and pondering this monument of Catholic hymnody.

The Pange Lingua of Passiontide

The hymn Pange lingua gloriosi, like the Holy Week Vespers hymn Vexilla regis prodeunt, is the work of Saint Venantius Fortunatus (530-600). Friend and secretary of the Queen Saint Radegonde (518-587), Fortunatus composed the hymns at her request to celebrate the arrival of a relic of the True Cross at the monastery she had founded at Poitiers. A gift of Emperor Justin II, the relic was solemnly received by Saint Radegonde on November 19, 569.

In the Divine Office

In the Divine Office of the 5th Week of Lent and Holy Week (Passiontide), the Pange lingua is divided into equal sections, the first being sung at Matins (The Office of Readings) and the second at Lauds.

On Good Friday

At the Solemn Celebration of the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday, the hymn is sung with the refrain Crux fidelis, which appears for the first time in the seventh century. In the Romano-Germanic Pontifical of the Tenth Century Crux fidelis and Pange lingua are the last chants sung during the adoratio Crucis. In the reformed liturgy they occupy the same place. Like Gloria laus on Palm Sunday and Ubi caritas est vera on Maundy Thursday, Pange lingua has a refrain between each strophe.

Struggle and Triumph

1. Sing, my tongue,
the Savior's glory;
tell His triumph far and wide;
tell aloud the famous story
of His body crucified;
how upon the cross a victim,
vanquishing in death, He died.

In the first strophe Venantius Fortunatus introduces his theme: a combat to the death, a great struggle in which Christ will triumph over death by death. In like manner, the sequence Victimae paschali laudes will trumpet on Easter Day:

Lazare, veni foras!

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Caravaggio's Resurrection of Lazarus depicts a dead man stunned by his sudden return to life. The head of Christ is the very one Caravaggio painted in his Calling of Saint Matthew, but here it is reversed.


Fifth Sunday of Lent

Ezekiel 37:12-14
Psalm 129: 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8
Romans 8:8-11
John 11:1-45

The Divine and Mystic Gospel

Over the past three Sundays of Lent, the Church has opened for us the Gospel of Saint John, the divine and mystic Gospel, the Gospel that, on every page, shines with the brightness of Christ’s divinity. The Lenten series of Johannine gospels are directed, first of all, to the catechumens, men and women in the last stages of preparation for the mysteries of initiation that will be celebrated in the night of Pascha. The same Gospels are addressed to the penitents, men and women who, having fallen, seek to rise again, washed in the pure water of the Spirit, and infused anew with the life-giving Blood of the Lamb. The Lenten liturgy is profitable to us only insofar as we identify inwardly with the catechumens and penitents, only insofar as we walk with them towards the mysteries of regeneration and reconciliation that ever flow from the Passion and Resurrection of Christ.

An Hour of Companionship

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When Fulton J. Sheen was ordained a priest, he promised Our Lord to make a Holy Hour daily before the Blessed Sacrament. He remained faithful to that promise for the entire sixty years of priest. It was during his daily Holy Hour that he learned to listen to the Heart of Jesus and accept the gift of Divine Friendship. Archbishop Sheen preached the benefit of Eucharistic adoration to all people but, first of all, to his brother priests. Here are a a few of this thoughts on the Holy Hour:

"I keep up the Holy Hour to grow more and more into His likeness... Looking at the Eucharistic Lord for an hour transforms the heart in a mysterious way as the face of Moses was transformed after his companionship with God on the mountain.

The Holy Hour is not a devotion; it is a sharing in the work of redemption. 'Could you not watch one hour with Me?' Not for an hour of activity did He plead, but for an hour of companionship.

The purpose of the Holy Hour is to encourage deep personal encounter with Christ. The holy and glorious God is constantly inviting us to come to Him, to hold converse with Him and to ask such things as we need and to experience what a blessing there is in fellowship with Him. One of the by-products of the Holy Hour was the sensitiveness to the Eucharistic Presence of Our Divine Lord."

(Treasure in Clay, The Autobiography of Fulton J. Sheen)

Seeking Solace

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The reflections of an Irish Catholic priest on his experience of loneliness moved me deeply, and confirmed me in own calling to adore and intercede for my brother priests. Among other things, this brother of mine in the priesthood wrote:

On a very personal level, when I go through the front door of the house, I sense the lack of another person in the house, in my life and in my arms. My vow of celibacy asks me to refrain from being emotionally involved (and indeed sexually involved) which is not easy by any means, and certainly I can understand why some of my colleagues would seek solace in the end of a bottle.

This week, I found myself in the arms of those friends who care a lot for me, and indeed I care as much in return. I would certainly wish that I could be with their company on a more constant basis, but distance prevents this from being a reality. We hugged as they came in my door, sat down for dinner and talked, then went to the local pub for a few drinks and walked home. When we got there, we sat down for a drink or two before another hug and adjourned to our separate beds.

Fulget Crucis Mysterium

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Our Lady Saint Mary, Saint John the Beloved Disciple,
and the Wounded Side of Christ


With First Vespers of the Fifth Sunday of Lent we enter into the last phase of preparation for the Pasch of the Lord: Passiontide. The Church places on our lips the great hymn of Christ’s Cross and Passion, and so we sing: fulget Crucis mysterium, “the mystery of the Cross shines out.” The second to the last verse of this age-old hymn is a confession of hope, hope in the power of the Cross:

O Cross, all hail! Sole hope, abide
With us now in this Passiontide:
New grace in loving hearts implant
And pardon to the guilty grant!

The station today is at Saint Peter’s Basilica. The solemnity of this Fifth Sunday of Lent required that the faithful of Rome assemble at the tomb of Saint Peter. The purple veils that, during these last two weeks before Pascha, will hide our sacred images, recall the great veil that in ancient times was stretched across the whole sanctuary, obliging the faithful to go by faith and longing into the inner sanctuary, the invisible one, where Christ is Victim, Altar and Priest.


This is the article by Auxiliary Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Karaganda in Kazakhstan that attracted considerable attention when it appeared in L'Osservatore Romano, 8 January 2008. I applaud His Excellency's well-documented argument. Would this not be another fruit of the "Year of the Eucharist" proclaimed by Pope John Paul II precisely to rekindle "Eucharistic amazement" in the Church?

1. In his last encyclical, the great Pope John Paul II gave the Church a strong warning which sounds like a real testament: "We must carefully avoid underestimating any dimension or requirement of the Holy Eucharist. We thus show our awareness of the greatness of this gift . . . there is no risk of exaggerating in respect for this Mystery."

Awareness of the greatness of this mystery is shown in the way in which Christ's Body is given and received. Being aware of the importance of the moment of Holy Communion, the Church in her bimillenary tradition has tried to find a ritual expression to testify to her faith, love and respect in the most perfect possible way. Thus, in the wake of an organic development, by at least as early as the 6th century, the Church began to give the Holy Eucharist directly into the mouth. This is testified in the biography of Pope Gregory the Great, who reigned from 590 to 604, and by an indication of the Pope himself.

The Synod of Cordova, which took place in 839, condemned the sect of the so-called Casians for their refusal to receive Holy Communion directly into the mouth. After this the Synod of Rouen of 878 confirmed the current practice of placing the Body of Christ on the tongue, threatening priests with suspension from their office should they give the Eucharist to lay people by placing it in their hands.

In the West the custom of kneeling and prostrating oneself before receiving the Eucharist was established in monasteries as early as the 6th century (e.g., in the monasteries of St. Colombanus). Later, in the 10th and 11th centuries, this custom became even more widespread.

At the end of the patristic age, the practice of receiving Holy Communion directly into the mouth became so widespread as to be almost universal. This organic development can be traced back to the spirituality and Eucharistic devotion of the Fathers of the Church. As early as the first millennium, owing to the highly sacred nature of Eucharistic bread, the Western and Eastern Church in unison and almost instinctively realized the urgency of giving the Eucharist to lay people in their mouth.

The well-known liturgist J. A. Jungmann explained that, thanks to the distribution of Holy Communion directly into the mouth, several problems were sorted out: the necessity for those about to receive the Eucharist to clean their hands, the even more serious problems of preventing fragments of consecrated bread from being lost, and the necessity of purifying the patens of the hands after receiving the sacrament. The cloth and later on the paten were expressions of greater respect for the Eucharist.

Saint Colette

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Holy Restlessness

Saint Colette is a suitable patroness of those blessed by the instability of a holy restlessness, by insatisfaction, and by the burning desire to correspond to Divine Grace. Her spiritual journey led her from the Béguines to the Benedictines, from the Benedictines to the Poor Clares, from the Poor Clares to reclusion in a cell as a Franciscan Tertiary, and from her solitude to a mission of reform as an itinerant Poor Clare Abbess!

The Search

Born at Corbie on January 13, 1381, Saint Colette’s parents named her Nicolette in honour of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker whom they had invoked in their great desire to have a child. Orphaned at eighteen years of age, Colette obtained permission from her guardian, the Lord Abbot of a nearby monastery, to enter the Béguines of Amiens, in spite of her young age. Béguines were, as a rule, women of a mature age. Colette stayed with the Béguines for a year. She found their life too soft. Then she tried Benedictine life. There too, Colette wasn’t satisfied. After the Benedictines, Colette entered a monastery of the Poor Clares. Even among the daughters of Saint Clare, she longed for something else. Her spiritual father finally had her pass, as a last resort, from the Second Order of Saint Francis (Poor Clares) to the Third Order. As a tertiary, Colette became a recluse.

Abbess in Perpetuity

Had Colette found the place of her spiritual rest? Hardly. God called her out of her reclusory to reform the Second Order of Saint Francis, the Poor Clares. Colette encountered Pope Benedict XIII who, during the troubled period of the Great Western Schism, reigned from Avignon. In 1406 Colette traveled to Nice to meet again with Pope Benedict XIII, temporarily in residence there out of fear of the plague. She asked his blessing on her project of reforming the Poor Clares. On October 14, she made monastic profession in the presence of the Pope and, in this way, entered the Second Order of Saint Francis. Benedict XIII named Colette, “Lady, Mother, and Abbess of the Reform in perpetuity.” Abbess Colette’s privileges were confirmed by Pope Innocent IV once the Western Schism had come to an end.


Ever on the Road

Saint Colette was an Abbess on the road. Ceaseless travels allowed her to impart a flame of spiritual renewal to monasteries of both nuns and friars that had grown cold in compromise. Among the monasteries of nuns founded or reformed by Saint Colette are Besançon (1410), Poligny (1417), and Amiens (1443). Saint Colette died at Gand on March 6, 1447. She was beatified in 1623, and canonized in 1807.

Barhamsville and Drumshanbo

Among the saintly daughters of Saint Colette is the Venerable Margaret Anne Sinclair (1900-1925), born in Edinburgh and professed in 1925 as a Colettine Extern Sister under the name of Sister Mary Frances of the Five Wounds. She died in London in the year of her profession on November 24th.

In the United States, the beautiful Bethlehem Monastery of the Poor Clares in Barhamsville,Virginia, together with several other monasteries of the same Federation, represents the Colettine tradition of Poor Clare life.

In Drumshanbo, County Leitrim, Ireland, the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, though not of the Colettine lineage, form a radiant hearth of ceaseless prayer in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Women desirous of offering themselves to the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus in a life of perpetual adoration at Drumshanbo should write to:

Reverend Mother M. Angela, Abbess
Convent of Perpetual Adoration
Drumshanbo, County Leitrim, Ireland

Irish Catholic Kvetch

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Saint Patrick's Day Secularized

I wanted to buy a few cards for Saint Patrick's Day to send to family and friends both in Ireland and in the U.S. The cards I saw in local shops were entirely secular, apart from a few sentimental "Irish Blessing" motifs. Many were in poor taste. Some were downright offensive. Even our local Celtica shop had precious little in the way of images of Saint Patrick. I irked the chirpy sales lady by saying that her so-called Saint Patrick's Day cards were . . . heathen!

Remembering Adé

My mentor of thirty-five years ago, Catholic artist Adé Béthune, found her vocation when Dorothy Day asked her to make some good images of the saints. Adé's saints appeared in the pages of the Catholic Worker. They were later printed as greeting cards and holy pictures. Conception Abbey's Printery House has some decent Saint Patrick's Day cards. There may be other sources too. Terry N. would know. For the most part what I saw today was . . . heathen!

I Will Not Be Forgetful of Thee

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Wednesday Within the Fourth Week of Lent

Isaiah 49:8-15
John 5:17-30

An Inward Quickening

In every single line of today's prophecy from Isaiah, there is a grace of consolation that penetrates the soul. One reads Isaiah 49:8-13 — or hears it read — and straightaway one experiences its effect: an inward quickening of hope, of confidence, and of thanksgiving.

God's Word is efficacious. The Word of God accomplishes what it announces, so often as we receive it with humility and with faith. The Word of God is a sacramental infusion of divine grace. Hold the Word in your heart, and it will change your life.

If you have ever felt forgotten by God or insignificant in His sight, ponder today's First Reading (Isaiah 49:8-16). Savour the last verse given in the Lectionary and the one that follows it in the Bible. I prefer Monsignor Knox's translation, and so give it here.

I Will Bring Thee Aid

Thus says the Lord, Here is a time of pardon, when prayer of thine shall be answered, a day of salvation when I will bring thee aid.
I have kept thee in readiness, to make, by thy means, a covenant with my people.
Thine to revive a ruined country, to parcel out forfeited lands anew,
men that are bound in darkness restoring to freedom and to the light.

Theirs Is a Merciful Shepherd

There shall be pasture for my flock by the wayside, feeding grounds they shall have on al the barren uplands;
they will hunger and thirst no more, noonday heat nor sun overpower them;
theirs is a merciful shepherd, that will lead them to welling fountains and give them drink.
And I will turn all these mountains of mine into a highroad for you;
safe through the uplands my path shall lead.
See how they come from far away!
Exiles from north and west, exiles from the south country return.
Ring out, heaven, with praise;
let earth keep holiday, and its mountains echo that praise again;
the Lord brings consolation to his people, takes pity on their need.

Before My Eyes Continually

Did Sion complain, the Lord has forsaken me, my own Master gives me never a thought?
What, can a woman forget her child that is unweaned, pity no longer the son she bore in her womb? Let her forget; I will not be forgetful of thee.
Why, I have cut thy image on the palms of my hands;
those walls of thine dwell before my eyes continually.

Saint Katherine Drexel

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Mother Drexel's Sweetest Joy

"My sweetest joy is to be in the presence of Jesus in the Holy Sacrament. I beg that when obliged to withdraw in body, I may leave my heart before the Holy Sacrament. How I would miss Our Lord if He were to be away from me by His presence in the Blessed Sacrament!" (Saint Katherine Drexel)

Preaching in Tulsa

On this feast of Saint Katherine Drexel (1858–1955), I returned from Oklahoma where I had the Laetare Sunday joy of preaching a Day of Recollection to deacons, candidates, and aspirants of the Diocese of Tulsa. The whole experience left me with an impression of a Church alive with the desire for holiness. I am profoundly grateful to His Excellency, Bishop Edward Slattery, and to Monsignor Patrick Brankin, a reader of Vultus Christi, for the opportunity they gave me to offer something to the Church they serve and love with such fidelity and zeal. Saint Katherine Drexel was a friend of the Church in Oklahoma.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

Donations for Silverstream Priory