Liturgical Texts: June 2007 Archives

This morning I walked to the Church of Sant' Alfonso, the Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. It was quiet and peaceful there with but a few pilgrims kneeling before the miraculous icon. Earlier, I had celebrated the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Perpetual Help in the Chapel of San Gregorio here at Santa Croce in Gerusalemme.



Rejoice we all in the Lord,
as we keep festival in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary:
whose solemnity makes angels joyful
and sets them praising the Son of God.
V. Joyful the thoughts that well up from my heart,
I shall speak of the works of the King (Ps 44:2).

Gaudeamus is a magnificent festal chant originally composed for the virgin martyr Saint Agatha, and then adapted to other occasions. It is used on a number of other feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary, making it familiar enough to be sung with a certain jubilant ease. The gentle balancing of the first mode melody evokes the ceaseless, sweeping joys of the heavenly liturgy celebrated by "the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands" (Ap 5:11). The verse, drawn from Psalm 44, the exuberant messianic wedding song, is placed in the mouth of the Church, the Bride of Christ, as she declares the wonders wrought through the intercession of the Virgin Mother of Perpetual Help.

Guercino did this drawing of the martyrdom of Saints John and Paul in 1630-32. He used a pen and brown ink, a brush and brown wash. The decapitated body of one of the martyrs lies prostrate, while the other, kneeling, awaits his death. The executioner is seen from behind; his face is hidden from the viewer.


Friends and Martyrs of the Church at Rome

Today is the memorial of Saints John and Paul, named both in the Martyrology and in the Roman Canon. John and Paul were Roman soldiers in the service of Constantia, the daughter of Constantine. They chose the friendship of Jesus Christ over the favour of Julian the Apostate. The liturgy draws on the imagery of the Apocalypse to describe them as “two olive trees and two candlesticks shining before the Lord” (Ap 11:4). The texts of their Proper Mass speak of the bonds of friendship and true fraternity.

The Church and Monastery of Saints John and Paul are on the Coelian Hill, a mere twenty minute walk from Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. One can also visit there the cell of Saint Paul of the Cross, founder of the Passionists.

The Mass and Office of Saints John and Paul left their mark on the soul of Suzanne Wrotnowska (Mother Marie des Douleurs), foundress of the Benedictines of Jesus Crucified, and, over the years, provided her, again and again, with food for meditation and exhortation.

Safely Through a Hundred Trials

The Introit of the today’s Mass spoke to her heart; in some ways it was strikingly prophetic of things to come: “Multae tribulationes . . . Though a hundred trials beset the righteous, the Lord will bring them safely through them all. Under the Lord’s keeping every bone of theirs is safe, not one of them shall suffer harm” (Ps 33:30-21). Suzanne’s writings, even at this time, reveal her capacity to attend to the texts of the Mass and Divine Office, and to draw out of them light for the conversion of her life, fortitude, and joy.

True Brotherhood

Writing on the feast of Saints John and Paul in 1932, Mother Marie des Douleurs offered her daughters a teaching from the Alleluia verse of the Mass: “This is true brotherhood, that triumphed over the reproaches of earth and followed Christ, laying hold of the glories of a heavenly kingdom.” The youthful foundress, writing after a little more than six months of life in community, was demanding, uncompromising, and realistic:

The holy martyrs John and Paul found in their common martyrdom a brotherhood deeper than that of blood.
For us, without having been called to the honour of martyrdom, we will find true brotherhood not in natural affection, nor in a community of tastes, occupations, and life, but in the total immolation of ourselves.
Here, in the perfect unity of the divine Heart, is where we will find one another: in the complete sacrifice that we promise, translated into a continual, smiling, and courageous abnegation.
This brotherhood of ours is very sweet, very intimate, very true if it is above ourselves. Otherwise, not only will it be disappointing and mediocre, it will not be able to last. We will love one another to the extent that we are sacrificed, insofar as we will have shared in the dispositions of the divine Victim.

The Eucharistic Heart of Jesus

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On 9 November 1921, Pope Benedict XV instituted the feast of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus to be celebrated on the Thursday within the Octave of the Sacred Heart with a Proper Mass and Office. The feast continues to be celebrated in some places and by some communities, notably by the Redemptorists who maintain it in their Proper Calendar. In instituting the feast, Pope Benedict XV wrote:

The chief reason of this feast is to commemorate the love of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the mystery of the Eucharist. By this means the Church wishes more and more to excite the faithful to approach this sacred mystery with confidence, and to inflame their hearts with that divine charity which consumed the Sacred Heart of Jesus when in His infinite love He instituted the Most Holy Eucharist, wherein the Divine Heart guards and loves them by living with them, as they live and abide in Him. For in the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist He offers and gives Himself to us as victim, companion, nourishment, viaticum, and pledge of our future glory.

The adorable mystery of the Eucharist sums up, contains, and communicates to us the entire mystery of Christ: His incarnation, life, passion, death, resurrection, and ascension, and outpouring of the Holy Spirit. If you seek the open Side of the glorious ascended Christ, you will find it in the Eucharist. If you seek the pierced Heart of Christ, beating with love for the Father and with mercy for sinners, you will find it in the Eucharist. The Communion Antiphon of the Mass of the feast is meant to be repeated and treasured. It is, at once, a promise and an invitation: "Behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world" (Mt 28:20).

Here is my own translation of the Proper of the Mass of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, together with invocations for the Act of Penitence and General Intercessions. The lessons, Gradual, and Alleluia can be found in most older missals in the section entitled "Local Feasts."

Saint Romuald

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I celebrated the 6:30 Mass in the Basilica's Cappella di San Gregorio this evening. There was the usual assortment of pie donne and folks on the way home from work, many of them with a motorcycle helmet on the bench next to them. It being the feast of Saint Romuald, I used the Supplemento Monastico al Messale Romano which gives the following Collect and Preface for Saint Romuald. Although of recent composition and somewhat lacking in the dignity of more ancient Latin texts, they are not without a certain unction. The translation from the Italian is my own.



O Father of lights, from Whom descendeth every gift,
and Who didst grant unto Saint Romuald
perfect compunction of heart
and a deep spiritual intelligence of the Scriptures;
renew us, we beseeech Thee, by Thy Spirit,
so that, by the steady and diligent hearing of Thy word,
we may be conformed to Christ Thy Son.
Who with Thee liveth and reigneth
in the unity of the same Holy Spirit,
God forever and ever.


It is truly meet and just,
right and availing unto salvation,
that we should at all times and in all places give thanks unto Thee,
O Lord, Father Almighty, and eternal God.

In Thy lovingkindness
Thou didst fill Saint Romuald,
the Father and Teacher of monks and hermits,
with the overflowing joy of lofty contemplation;

Thou didst enrich him with the light of the Prophets
and enflame him with the zeal of the Apostles;
Thus, by the silence of his tongue and the eloquence of his life
did he lead back many into the way of salvation.

For this gift of Thy bounty,
we join ourselves in exultation with the angels and the saints,
and so sing the hymn of Thy glory:

Lilies and Bread

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Together with two good friends I went on a little pilgrimage this morning to the Basilica of Sant'Antonio on the Via Merulana. The church was full of devotees of Saint Anthony. There were lines at all the confessionals. At the entrance to the basilica was a Franciscan priest with an aspergillum, giving a blessing to the faithful as they entered. Blessed lilies were much in evidence but they were artificial ones in cellophane packaging! I said the Gloria Patri seven times in honour of the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost in the life and works of Saint Anthony. And like the other pilgrims gathered around the statue of Saint Anthony in festal array, I presented my petitions to the glorious Wonderworker. Viva Sant'Antonio!


June 13

The Blessing of Lilies and of Bread
in Honour of Saint Anthony of Padua, Doctor of the Church

O God, the Creator of all things,
the Source of all loveliness,
the lover of holy purity,
and the giver of spiritual grace.
Graciously bless these lilies
offered today in thanksgiving to you
and in honour of Saint Anthony.
Pour out on them heavenly dew
by the saving sign + of the most holy Cross.

O merciful God,
who have endowed these lilies with a most delightful fragrance
to be a comfort and help to those on their sickbeds,
imbue them now with so great a virtue
that whether they are used at home,
in a sickroom, or carried about one’s person,
they may have power,
through the intercession of Saint Anthony,
to drive out evil spirits, to safeguard chastity,
to turn away illness,
and to bestow on your servants peace and grace.
Through Christ our Lord.

The lilies are sprinkled with holy water.

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