Liturgical Texts: June 2012 Archives


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.

Lord Jesus Christ, by whose gift Mary Thy Mother, that Mary whose glorious image we revere, is our Mother too, and ready at all times to succour us, we pray Thee grant that we, who earnestly beg her maternal help, may be counted worthy to reap through all eternity the fruit of Thy redeeming work. Thou who art God living and reigning with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, forever and ever.

As are many liturgical prayers of recent composition, the Collect is addressed to Christ rather than to the Father. Orations addressed to the Son are exceptional in the Roman liturgy; in the East they are the norm. While it is not traditional to direct the Collect to the Son in the classic Roman liturgy, there are moments when it can be quite fitting to do so. The feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help may be one of those moments.

The Collect refers straightaway to the gift of the Virgin Mary's motherhood extended to every disciple of her Son, the very mystery that will be evoked in the Gospel; and to the veneration of her glorious image. It acknowledges that Mary is perpetually ready to help us, and asks that, through her motherly power, we may reap through all eternity the fruit of Christ's redemption. The last phrase is certainly an allusion to the charism of the Redemptorists, custodians of the miraculous icon and, in the tradition of Saint Alphonsus, tireless preachers of Mary's universal mediation and inexhaustible clemency.

The Joy of Innocence

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Sexual Exploitation, Then and Now

The young Luigi Gonzaga preserved his innocence in a milieu where boys were often the victims of sexual predators -- both women and men -- and where the sexual exploitation of youngsters was a divertissement of the decadent. His angelic purity ought, more than ever, to be presented as a gift of incredible beauty and as costly prize. Luigi was not one to shrink from spiritual combat. Even as a boy, he went forward with courage and grace, his eyes set on "the substance of things to be hoped for, the evidence of things that appear not" (Heb 11:1).

Introit (Psalm 8:8, Ps 148:2)

Thou hast made him a little less than the angels:
Thou hast crowned him with glory and honour.
Ps. Praise the Lord, all his angels: praise ye Him all His hosts.

There are two allusions to the angels in this relatively brief chant. Our Lord gives us the key to understanding the angelic quality of Saint Aloysius when he says: "See that you despise not one of these little ones; for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of My Father who is in heaven" (Mt 18:10). Look at the eyes of Aloysius; they reflect the Face of the Father.

The Collect is splendidly realistic. Not all of us have followed Saint Aloysius along the path of "a wonderful innocence of life." Some of us may have lost that innocence by weakness in the face of occasions of sin, others by a calculated choice. Still others had that "wonderful innocence" taken from them. One has to have read certain pages of the Journals of Julien Green to understand the repercussions over a lifetime of an innocence lost.

The Church addresses the dilemma in her prayer: eius meritis et precibus concede, ut innocentem non secuti, poenitentiam imitemur. "Grant through his merits and prayers, that we who have not followed him in his innocence, may imitate him in his penance." Penitence here means more than acts of asceticism; it refers to the change of direction by virtue of which one begins to live with, as Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity would say, with one's eyes in the eyes of Christ.

The liturgy places the Gradual in the mouth of Saint Aloysius. It is a chant of thanksgiving for the gift of divine intimacy, and for the shining innocence that is its fruit.

Gradual (Psalm 70:5-6; Ps 40:13)

Thou, my Lord, the hope of my youth,
Thou hast upheld me from birth,
Thou hast guarded me ever since I left my mother's womb.
V. Thou dost befriend my innocence,
and wilt have me stand continually in Thy presence.

Alleluia Verse (Ps 64:5)

Blessed is the man on whom Thy choice falls,
whom Thou bringest near to Thyself,
bidding him dwell in Thy palace.

Here the Church remembers Aloysius as one chosen by God and brought near to Himself to live always in the courts (or palace) of the Lord. The underlying idea is that Luigi, destined to live in a Renaissance palace, lives out his days instead in the courts of the Lord, in the household of the King.

Offertory Antiphon (Ps 23:3-4)

Who dares climb the mountain of the Lord,
and appears in His sanctuary?
The guiltless in act, the pure in heart.

Returning to Psalm 23, the source of the Introit, for the Offertory procession, the Church engages in a question and answer. This is sung at the very moment the priest ascends to the altar, climbing the mountain of the Lord and appearing in His sanctuary. One hears above this antiphon, in a kind of mystical counterpoint, the promise of Our Lord in the Beatitudes: "Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see God" (Mt 5:8). Look at the eyes of Luigi in the portrait above; it is the gaze of a clean heart, the gaze of one who sees God.

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.

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