Matters Liturgical: August 2007 Archives


When I was a lad in New Haven, Connecticut, I had the privilege of knowing Father Philip T. Weller. He spent a year or two in residence at Saint Francis Parish. For a boy who spent his free time reading The Church's Year of Grace by Pius Parsch, meeting Father Weller and serving his Mass was a dream come true. Father Weller was gifted with a melodious voice and loved Gregorian Chant. He sang Mass with a quiet reverence, with loving attention to the rubrics, and with manly devotion. His preaching was outstanding. Father Weller was a shining example of priestly liturgical piety. For all of that, he was never stuffy or distant. I remember him once interrupting the distribution of Holy Communion to say to Mrs. Zullo, "Madame, you have a lovely voice!" I have never forgotten him.

Preserving Christian Publications has made Father Weller's classic Latin-English three volume version of The Roman Ritual for the traditional Roman Rite available once again. Published originally between 1946 and 1950, the folks at PCP have faithfully and handsomely reprinted all three volumes in simulated leather hardbound with gold-embossing, sewn binding, a marking ribbon, and as in the originals: red and black text throughout with plainchant notation! All three volumes are also completely indexed in both Latin and English!


In his introduction to the books, Father Weller presents a mystagogical catechesis that is itself worth the price of the set. "Christ has sacramentalized the world," he writes, "and Christian man, therefore, is destined to live, and grow, and mature into Christian perfection chiefly by means of sacramental action. This is the ordinary way unto sanctification. . . . The true Christian spirit demands that man accepts the fact that supernatural life is concurrent with physical life, that spiritual contents are wed to material or external forms."

What treasures will you find in Father Weller's Roman Ritual apart from the rites of Sacraments and the Processions of the Liturgical Year? Here are just some of them:

— The Blessing of Holy Water
— The Blessings of an Infant, of a Child, and of Children
— The Blessing of Wine for Saint John's Day
— The Blessing of Chalk for the Epiphany
— The Great Blessing of Epiphany Water
— The Blessing of Homes
— The Blessings of Lamb, Eggs, Bread, New Produce, and Oil
— The Blessing of a Bonfire for the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
— The Blessing of Herbs on the Assumption
— The Blessings of Pilgrims, of Sick Pilgrims, of a Sick Adult, of Sick Children
— The Blessing of an Expectant Mother
— The Blessing of a Mother After Childbirth
— The Blessings of a Cross, of Sacred Images, of a Cincture, of a Votive Habit,
of Lilies in Honour of Saint Anthony of Padua, of an Organ, of a Church Bell, of Sick Animals, of Cattle and Herds, of Bees, of Silkworms, of Salt or Oats for Animals, of a Stable, of Linens for the Sick, of a Wheelchair, of Wine for the Sick, of Medicine, of Bread and Cakes, of Ale, of Cheese and Butter, of Fowl Meat, of Grapes, of a Fishing Boat, and of a Fire Engine.

There is so much more, including the blessings of devotional scapulars and other items at one time reserved to priests of particular Orders. I know of no other set of books containing so complete a collection of the sacramental rites of the Church.

Writing of the use of sacramentals (little sacraments), Father Weller says:

As he leaves the Eucharistic altar and banquet-table of the new Jerusalem, the Christian goes out, oftentimes into the atmosphere of a veritable Babylon. Fortified with Christ's kiss of peace, he launches the attack against Satan, using the auxiliary weapons which the Church, the worthy Spouse of Christ and our holy Mother dispenses with a lavish hand to her children. May the little sacraments treated of in this volume become powerful allies to the Holy Seven, to hasten our sacramental sanctification unto the full stature of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!

In their presentation of the The Roman Ritual, our friends at Preserving Christian Publications, affirm that Father Weller "prepared it for the clergy 'as a manual and reference' and for the laity's 'interest and enthusiasm for the rites and prayers of so important a part of the liturgical books of the Church.'"

Weary With Holding In

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I offered the Sunday Vigil Mass in a suburban parish last Saturday in order to help out a friend and brother priest. Father is very dedicated and I have immense esteem for him. The observations that follow are no reflection on him. He inherited a difficult situation and hasn't yet completed his first year in the parish. But, like the prophet Jeremias, I am "weary with holding in." Disclaimer: the images below are in no way related to the place or persons mentioned in this rant. Any resemblance is purely coincidental.



The first thing that disconcerted me was the idle chatter in church before Mass. It was like being in a theatre waiting for the lights to dim and the curtain to go up. People seated in little groups around the church held exchanged news and joked with absolutely no regard for the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, the sacredness of the place, or the few faithful who were actually trying to pray. I knelt in the back of the church surrounded by prattle on all sides and felt an immense sadness in my heart. The words of the Mass of the Sacred Heart came to mind: "I looked for one that would grieve together with me, but there was none; and for one that would comfort me, and I found none" (Ps 68:21). Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament was alone among his own: ignored and treated with ingratitude and indifference in His own house. The chatter resumed immediately after Mass.

The Place

The unfortunate architecture of this particular church does not easily lend itself to recollection or to a spontaneous focus on the presence of our Lord. In spite of the large crucifix above the tabernacle, there is something about the building that is inimical to prayer. But there is more: the faithful seem to have lost any awareness of the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. There is no "eucharistic amazement." One does not find there the hush ordinarily commanded by an experience of the sacred.



Not that long ago there was still a lively sense of reverence among Catholics. People would sign themselves with Holy Water upon entering the church. They would genuflect before entering the pew, then kneel in adoration for a few moments. It was not uncommon to see people lighting candles before Mass or visiting the side altars and the shrines of their favourite saints. Some folks would pray the rosary quietly. Others would read over the Mass of the day in their missals. All of this has been swept away. When Pope John Paul II proclaimed the "Year of the Eucharist" his stated aim was the recovery of "Eucharistic amazement" — call it reverence, awe, or the spirit of adoration — in the whole Church. Instead of things improving in the average parish, they seem to be getting worse.

A number of factors have contributed to this desolate situation. I will enumerate a few of them:

1) The loss of any notion of sacred space. I think this is directly related to the removal of the Communion Rail or other effective delineation of the sanctuary of the church. Time to rally 'round the rood screen again! The Tractarians were right.

2) Mass "facing the people." This, more than anything else, undermined and continues to undermine the faithful's experience of the Mass as a Sacrifice offered to God in adoration, propitiation, thanksgiving, and supplication. The altar has become the big desk of the clerical CEO behind it: The Presider. It has become a stage prop for the "performing priest," complete with The Microphone.

3) Holy Communion in the hand. I see it every time I offer Mass in a parish church: the casual approach prevails. If one receives the Holy Mysteries like ordinary bread and a sip of ordinary wine, one begins rather sooner than later, will-nilly, to think of them as mere bread and wine.


4) No bells. Instead of ringing a sacristy bell to announce the beginning of Mass, the organist leaned into His Microphone and said, "Let us stand to greet Father Kirby." Sorry. That is not what the Entrance Procession is about. It is a humble, joyful, and orderly movement into the Holy Place, a crossing-over from chronos (worldly, stressful, clocked time) to kairos (the heavenly, tranquil, timeless moment of God), an entering into the adorable presence of the God who is like a consuming fire, a making-ready for the inbreaking of the Kingdom of Heaven. A bell says it better.

Same thing during the Eucharistic Prayer. People need to be warned of the imminence of the most sacred moment of the Mass, even when the Eucharistic Prayer (Canon) is prayed aloud and in the vernacular. A bell does the job quite nicely. And another thing: saying the whole Eucharistic Prayer aloud and in the vernacular does not automatically guarantee "full, conscious, and actual participation" in the Holy Sacrifice. Silence, on the other hand, at least for certain parts of the Eucharistic Prayer, effectively opens a door onto the Holy Mysteries.

5) Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion. Alas, they are not extraordinary. They are ubiquitous and, I think, superfluous. Does expediting the distribution of Holy Communion really constitute grave necessity? In the church where I offered Mass last Saturday there were four Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, all of whom were women. Three were wearing casual slacks and one was showing cleavage. They could have been serving lemonade at the parish garden party. It was frightfully inappropriate.

Could there not be properly instituted acolytes for the service of the Holy Mysteries where such are needed? These would be adult men — few in number — suitably vested in amice, alb, and cincture and, most of all, schooled in reverence, attention, and devotion, and carefully trained for the service of the sacred liturgy.

This brings up yet another issue? Where have all the men gone? At last Saturday's Mass, the four Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, the Server, and one Lector were all women. I am not a misogynist. But honestly, this situation does nothing to foster priestly vocations.

6) The Music. Dare I call it that? Oh, the music! Show-tuney, trite, tired, and sickeningly sentimental with the organist/crooner singing into His Microphone. Might we not try singing the Mass itself: the Ordinary and the Propers? More than anything else celebrants must begin taking their sacerdotal obligations seriously by learning to cantillate the dialogical parts of the Mass, the orations, the Preface Dialogue and Preface, and the other elements that belong uniquely to them as priests.

I am not a gloomy person by nature, but last Saturday's Mass left me very sad indeed. "For if in the green wood they do these things, what shall be done in the dry?" (Lk 23:31).

Dominus tecum, virorum fortissime

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The Lord Is With Thee

Today’s First Lesson gives us the Angel’s greeting to Gideon. “The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘The Lord is with thee, O most valiant of men” (Jgs 6:12). The Archangel Gabriel greeted the Virgin of Nazareth with similar words: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee” (Lk 1:28). Now that “the fullness of time has come” (Gal 4:4), that greeting from heaven has passed into the liturgy of the Church on earth.

At the beginning of Holy Mass and at key moments within the celebration, the priest greets the people, saying, Dominus vobiscum, “The Lord be with you.” He refers to the presence of the Lord in the midst of the Church. The phrase can be understood either as a wish, May the Lord be with you, or as a declaration, The Lord is with you.

When the Angel says to Gideon, “The Lord is with thee, valiant warrior,” he is inviting him to take heart, trusting in the unfailing presence of the Lord. Thus do we hear Gideon say at the end of the mysterious encounter, “I have seen the Angel of the Lord face to face” (Jgs 3:22). “And the Lord said to him: ‘Peace be with thee, fear not, thou shalt not die’” (Jgs 3:23).

Presence of Christ

How are we to understand the Dominus vobiscum of the Mass? It is a solemn and joyful affirmation of the presence of the Lord in the midst of the assembly. By His grace Christ is present and living in each baptized person for He is the Vine and we are the branches (Jn 15:5). According to Our Lord’s promise He is present also in the midst of those who come together in His Name. “Where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt 18:20).

The Voice of Thy Salutation


A thrill of jubilation should pass through the church every time the greeting of the priest, ancient and ever new, reaches the ears of the faithful. Recall what happened when the Virgin Mary greeted her cousin Elizabeth: “And she entered into the house of Zachary, and saluted Elizabeth. And it came to pass that when Elizabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the infant leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost” (Lk 1:41). At what precise moment did this infilling take place? Elizabeth says, “Behold as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in my ears” (Lk 1:44).


The musical tradition of the Roman Church has clothed this greeting in a little melody of two notes (sol and la) that is as sublime as it is simple. Dominus vobiscum. Only at the dialogue that precedes the Preface of the Mass does the greeting assume a more ample and solemn musical treatment, and this is to signify that at that very moment the priest and people are poised to enter into the Holy of Holies of the Mass.


In singing these words, the priest extends his arms towards the assembly. He opens his hands as if to embrace all present and draw them into one single prayer to the Father, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit. This particular gesture is reserved to bishops and priests. Though deacons are allowed to say, “The Lord be with you,” they do so with folded hands. It belongs to the bishop and to the priest to impart the grace of the Lord’s presence to the faithful, and to take them up with him into the prayer of Christ to the Father.

The Ignatius Press RSV Lectionary

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The critique of the NAB Lectionary by Father Neuhaus reminded me that for some time I have wanted to recommend the two volume RSV Lectionary published by Ignatius Press. "The Lectionary has been reviewed and recognized by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments to be in conformity with Liturgiam Authenticam, the Holy See's recent norms for biblical and liturgical translations. In fact, this Lectionary is the only English-language lectionary presently recognized as conforming to Liturgiam Authenticam. It is also the only English-language lectionary whose text is identical to that found in a published edition of the Bible . The new RSV Lectionary has been approved for use in the Antilles Bishops Conference." The US Bishops would do well to take a lesson from their brethren in the Antilles.

Thank you to Argent by the Tiber for making me aware of this fine essay by Father Richard John Neuhaus. Bravo, Father Neuhaus! The text should be sent to every American bishop.


70 or 70 x 7?

By Richard John Neuhaus

The New American Bible (NAB), an unfortunate translation episcopally imposed upon Catholics for readings at Mass, has prompted earlier comment in First Things (see here and here). The problem keeps coming back, not least in pastoral counseling. Take the woman who had had it with her husband’s lying to her. I mentioned to her Our Lord’s admonition to forgive “seventy times seven” (Matt. 18:22). That’s the way it reads in every widely used English translation, including the Douay-Rheims, an earlier English translation used by Catholics. Jesus obviously intended hyperbole, indicating that forgiveness is open-ended. Keep on forgiving as you are forgiven by God, for God’s forgiving is beyond measure or counting.

But this woman had been reading her NAB, according to which Jesus said we should forgive not “seventy times seven,” but “seventy times.” She had been keeping count, and her husband was well over his quota. Then there is Matt. 5:32 and 19:9, where in both passages Jesus says: “But I say to you that every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress.” In other widely used English translations, it is “unfaithfulness” or “marital unfaithfulness.” The Douay-Rheims says “excepting in the case of fornication.”

In both passages, the NAB puts it this way: “But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery.” Meaning a previous marriage had not been annulled by the diocesan marriage tribunal? Whatever.

Now to be perfectly fair, in the three passages mentioned there are ancient authorities that lend some support for the NAB translation. For instance, some ancient texts of Matthew 19 read “he who marries a divorced woman commits adultery,” which is closer to the NAB version. But in the tradition of translation, scholars have overwhelmingly decided that the manuscripts referring to unchastity or unfaithfulness are to be preferred.

Ecce quam bonum et quam jucundum

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What do these Catholic bloggers do when they meet? Pray. Sing. Talk. Eat. Pray. Sing. Talk. Eat. Did I mention the singing? This photo of Father Jeffrey Keyes, C.PP.S. of Rifugio San Gaspare, Richard Chonak of Catholic Light, and myself was taken in the entrance garden of the little church of the Monastery of the Glorious Cross, O.S.B. in Branford, Connecticut.


Yesterday we sang the beautiful Ordinary XII (Pater cuncta), together with the Introit Salus autem and the Alleluia Te martyrum from the Mass of SS. Pontian and Hippolytus. Mass at the Monastery of the Glorious Cross is at 11:50 on weekdays and at 11:00 on Sundays and Solemnities. When I am not serving as chaplain the times of Mass may vary, so call ahead.

The monastery church had to be designed in an existing space. The building is the former Connecticut Hospice. The low ceiling posed real problems. We opened it up with two light wells: one directly over the altar, and another directly over the place where Holy Communion is distributed. The low walls surrounding the sanctuary were another challenge. They contain all sorts of pipes and wiring and could not be removed. We integrated them into the design to form a very effective delineation of the the sanctuary. The Benedictine nuns are in two choirs to the right and left of the sanctuary. The lay faithful have chairs and kneelers facing the sanctuary.

The crucifix came from the workshops of the Nuns of Bethlehem and of the Assumption. The icons of the Saviour and of the Mother of God are by a Benedictine of Jesus Crucified in France.

We are presently holding a Novena of Masses for the happy repose of the souls of all those who died in the monastery building while it was The Connecticut Hospice.


Yes, I do celebrate Holy Mass ad orientem. The wrought iron gates in front of the tabernacle are closed during the Holy Sacrifice and remain open outside of Mass. The conical chasuble of red wool is the work of Vincent Crosby. He explains the conical form of the chasuble:

The chasuble originated in the everyday dress of the Roman citizen at the beginning of the Christian era. It was known as the paenula, the outer garment that entirely enveloped the figure and hung in radiating folds. It had a cone-like or conical shape. To free the hands it was necessary to gather up the material into graceful folds across the forearms.

Over the centuries the shape of the chasuble has altered, reflecting changes in liturgical theology and presidential style. But the classic form of the conical chasuble remains the authentic shape of the Eucharistic vestment.

For the artist, it is a more interesting garment to design because unlike the more static “gothic” chasuble, the conical chasuble changes as it responds to the human body. It is also a more rewarding garment to wear because of the beauty of its folds.

About Those ABC Antiphons

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The full set of nine Gospel Antiphons for the Magnificat I, the Benedictus, and the Magnificat II of the Sundays Throughout the Year appear for the first time in the 1985 edition of the Liturgia Horarum with the a decree from the Congregation for Divine Worship that says, among other things, the following:

"Novae antiphonae ad Benedictus et ad Magnificat Evangelio, ex quo depromuntur, conformes in dominicis et sollemnitatibus plerumque sunt inductae."

That may explain why these antiphons appear neither in the American nor Irish/UK editions of the Liturgy of the Hours. All the same, the texts have been available for 27 years. One would think that by now someone would have included them in the various vernacular editions.

Et vos estote parati

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Nineteenth Sunday of the Year C

Wisdom 18:6-9
Psalm 32: 1 & 12, 18-19, 20 & 22 (R. 12b)
Hebrews 11: 1-2, 8-19
Luke 12: 32-28 or 35-40

The Liturgy Begins With What is Given

For every Sunday Throughout the Year of Years A, B, and C, the Liturgy of the Hours gives us three antiphons taken from the Gospel: one for the Magnificat at First Vespers, one for the Benedictus, and one for the Magnificat at Second Vespers. Some see in the variety of antiphons given an embarrassment of riches: more than any one choir can master, more than one heart can take in. These subjective appreciations are beside the point; the liturgy begins with what is given. Wisdom begins with our acceptance of the objective givenness of the liturgy; with that acceptance comes the taste of the things of the God, foretaste of the Kingdom.

Note: Nine Gospel antiphons are given for each Sunday of the Time Throughout the Year: three each, destined to be sung at the Magnificat I, the Benedictus, and the Magnificat II for Years A, B, and C. The editors of the American version of the Liturgy of the Hours reduced the nine antiphons to three, thereby deconstructing the magnificent biblical and liturgical harmonics intended by the Church.

The Manifold Mystery of Christ

The Gospel Antiphons of the Divine Office are carefully selected and crafted. Their Gregorian musical expression unlocks for us the hidden meaning of the texts. Like all sacramentals — for that is what the antiphons are — they are a way into the manifold mystery of Christ, mystical portals opening onto the light. Let us then enter today’s Gospel by passing, in succession, through each of this Sunday’s three Gospel Antiphons.

Treasure and Heart

At First Vespers, the Magnificat antiphon was: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also, says the Lord” (Lk 12:34). Immediately, we are obliged to ask ourselves hard questions, incisive questions. Where is my treasure? There is my heart. What do I want above all else? There is my heart. What do I cherish? There is my heart. What things do I protect? There is my heart. For what thing or things am I willing to suffer? There is my heart. In what thing or things have I invested myself, my energy, my talents, and my time . . . especially my time? There is my heart.

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