Monday, August 28, 2006

A Novena with Saint Paul of the Cross

Jesus is not our mother.

Football and the Law

The sign of the Cross

"But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews indeed a stumblingblock, and unto the Gentiles foolishness".

When making the sign of the Cross is a problem, it is in the people who are provoked, not the person who is making the sign.

It is as it was.

Pope John Paul II against Mel Gibson's mistaken detractors, putting words into Mr Gibson's mouth.

"My views have been reflected in my work and I feel bad that I've done that"

Footballer gets criminal record

for making sign of the cross

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Diocese of Providence Seminary


sold, in the 1980s, becomes a banqueting and conference centre.

The Seminary Anthem
O Mater Alma Providentiae, tui
Dant filii salutem unico pectore
Plena tibi dum voce carmen concinunt
Amoris atque gratiae.

Virtutis et scientiam recepimus
Aetate prima sub tua dulcissima
Protectione disciplinas. Ad bonum
Adduc labores terminum.

Tui ad pedes sacrarii egimus dies
Laete. Parati nunc in altum progredi
In Te, Deipara, fidem reponimus
Maria, spes nostra, vale.
Organ setting about 16 minutes in.

The Diocese. Take the tour of their new seminary!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Jesus on the Mount of Olives Altar

Further to the posting on Iconoclasm and Liturgy, I have finally found an example of a Marmon altar, this one located in Muenster. There are hundreds of similar altars in Germany. There were thousands more before the 1960s. Posted by Picasa

Monastery for Dummies


After the Tridentine Mass for Dummies, the Monastery of Walkenried where the former abbey has been turned into a museum and concert centre.

The contents of the museum are excellent but it is no substitute for the real thing.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

English - Scottish - Welsh - Irish Martyrs

readings now updated daily.

Iconoclasm and Liturgy

Following my post warning of the posthumous evil wrought by Dom Lambert Beauduin OSB on the liturgy, I have been sent a translation of an article by the great German writer Martin Mosebach, entitled "Iconclasm and Liturgy". The original article appeared in the newsletter of the German organisation, Pro Missa Tridentina. The translation was made with the threats to St Colman's Cathedral in Ireland in mind.

Martin Mosebach's great book, "Häresie der Formlosigkeit-Die römische Liturgie und ihr Feind" has recently been translated into English, as "The Heresy of Formlessness- the Roman Liturgy and its Enemy". This review was written in English before a translation became available.

It is now available in English from


Iconoclasm and Liturgy
by Martin Mosebach

The case is at first glance a banal one. The church concerned does not rank among the flashpoints of Germany’s ecclesiastical history, nor does it stem from one of the great architectural epochs; the architects and artists who worked jointly on its completion are for the most part unknown. What happened in this Church of Saint Raphael in the Heidelberg suburb of Neuenheim is, however, exemplary for thousands of churches the world over, for masterpieces and anonymous creations, for cathedrals and chapels.

Hardly a church remained unscathed in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council, and even if one chances upon an intact ensemble, then not because reverence or taste spread their guardian wings over it. It would be due to the merciful lack of money, a lamentably rare phenomenon in the land of church tax. No German bishop can deny that there was widespread occurrence of something similar to St. Raphael’s in his diocese. Such are the clerical and liturgical fruits of the post-Conciliar development. Those wishing to view the full horror subsisting in the ambiguous concept ‘aggiornamento’ should consider the brief, straightforward story of St. Raphael’s.

I called the Neuenheim church banal. Are there banal churches? Perhaps from an artificially secular, strictly scientific viewpoint which prohibits any correlation to the function of its object. The actual master-builder of each church was the liturgy, creating an often splendid, meaningfully adorned setting in which to unfold itself. A church in which the consecrated Host, the Sacrament of the Altar, is reposited is no banal location. But there are, of course, churches which outwardly reveal what takes place inside, and churches which reveal this only vaguely or not at all. And where liturgy is principally independent of the spatial circumstances in which it is conducted it is perhaps forgivable if those viewing a church draw conclusions from its appearance as to the liturgy celebrated within and, presented with a space which no longer conveys a sense of sacred and liturgical functions, ask whether the liturgy should actually still take place there at all.

As the cornerstone of the Church of St. Raphael was laid in the year 1903 it was clear to priest and parishioners alike that a church ought to be built which everyone would instantly recognise as such. At this time, churches were actually no longer built in the neo-Romanesque style, the design by the diocesan architect Ludwig Maier being thus somewhat old-fashioned. Maier was a seasoned professional. His structure is well-proportioned and slim. It is noticeable that the facade of Pisa Cathedral had left an impression on him,

but the pale brickwork also recalls Maier’s present, the industrial architecture typified by factory estates - long since listed for preservation, and rightly so. In common with many historical pieces of architecture, St. Raphael’s has a certain coldness. This is an apparently essential characteristic of the industrial age and even finds praise as a hallmark of workmanship in Bauhaus architecture. In its petite compactness St. Raphael’s resembles a church-shaped reliquary, a model church. Maier richly adorned the interior. He did not concern himself with purity of style, but with a new style which drew on the wealth of the Christian past and sought to manifest the path of the Church over time. Early-Christian mosaics from the Roman basilicas,

the Byzantine art of Ravenna

the Italian Renaissance,

the Baroque of the Counter-Reformation,

the Heart of Jesus spirituality and the Saints made up a truly astonishing compendium of the Catholic religion. Anyone explaining the stained-glass windows, frescos and altars in St. Raphael’s to a child could, in so doing, convey to him a sense of the beliefs and history of the Church.

How the church looked in its colourful splendour, what quality the painting may have possessed, can only be guessed at today, for the few surviving photographs give no indication of either the colour scheme or the despatch. But we know from contemporary sources just how well the artistic works complemented each other. The Great Prayers, the Way of the Cross and Litany of Loreto adorned walls and coffered ceiling as if the hallowed space were to be composed of prayers.

This all came about in precisely those years in which Kandinsky painted his first abstract watercolour.

The great civil war in the realm of art broke out and persists until today. This is not the place to delve into the development of art in the 20thcentury. Suffice it to say: There is also great realistic art in the 20th century, but it is scarcely visible. Everything which was of significance since the dawn of art, the study and the artistic recreation of the world, was now frowned upon. Until this revolution it was precisely in its greatest works that art had also performed a function: it had adorned a room or kept a person in memory. Artists painted the biblia paupera on walls, and they created votive pictures which gave prayer a reassuring direction.

The victorious art of Modernity now declared its “non serviam”. It no longer served. It demanded for itself the reverence which had previously been accorded to its subject. The Church ought to have realised long beforehand that the art which she had nurtured in her bosom would seek to break loose from its mother. Revolutions do not come overnight, they require preparation. The Church had ceased to be the principal commissioner of art - and art goes where the money is - for quite some time; she had for too long found herself in a defensive, often timorous, posture in an attempt to further attract free spirits. What had already happened in philosophy and society now had to be taken cognizance of in art: The Church had lost her dominion and influence.

The damage from the war was of help in this predicament and facilitated a determined course of action. An aerial bomb had blasted away some of St. Raphael’s stained-glass windows; as the scaffolding was in place the opportunity was seized and, in the year 1954, the entire church was painted white. The snowy mantle of abstraction descended on the rich figural tapestry of the communio sanctorum.

The most precious adornments of the church, the high altar and the side altars, were still intact. These altars by the wood sculptor Alfons Marmon of Sigmaringen were significant works of art, testifying to the independence and theological boldness peculiar to great works of church art - an investigation into the part played by painters and sculptors in the development of Church teachings would lead to some surprises. Although Historicism has since been rehabilitated by art historians, the accusation of imitation, lack of originality and eclecticism continues to be made in connection with buildings of the 19th century; contrary to all appearances, for the unbiased observer sees at once that, in their play with tradition, these works of art brought forth wholly novel forms. Where the New is perceived, it is, in turn, cause to reproach the artist, here, Alfons Marmon: His altar, it was said, wasn’t Romanesque at all.

Actually, Marmon’s altars were not Romanesque for the simple reason that his type of high altar was not known in the Romanesque. His Arch of Triumph stemmed from the Florentine Renaissance. Such fully-sculpted relief altars are associated with the della Robia family. Marmon’s limewood sculptures keep a most artistic balance of natural observation and stylisation: nervous, large hands, spirited heads amidst waves of flowing Jugendstil robes. It is worthwhile dwelling on the conceptual design of the altar. Its subject is the Incarnation. The gates right and left of the tabernacle lead into the Casa Santa of Nazareth

and the Nativity Grotto of Bethlehem,

the two places associated with the Word becoming flesh. On the altar of the historic Casa Santa, situated today in Loreto, is written in bronze letters, “Hic verbum caro factum est” - here the Word became flesh.

This is a twofold reference, for Mary conceived Jesus in the walls of that house, and on the altar in the Mass an incarnation likewise takes place. By recreating both, the Annunciation and the Nativity of Christ, on his altar, he stressed both aspects of the Mass. He shifted the emphasis from the sacrifice to the propitiation, God Incarnate. The message was that Christ was not only sacrificed, but also born, on the altar.

Only very few pictorial inventions of the Latin Church can match the theological vigour and sensual commitment of Byzantine icons; significantly, the most important originated in visions: the Pieta,

the Mother of God immersed in the contemplation of her dead Son, which stems from the mysticism of Thuringia; the Immaculata of Lourdes from the vision of Bernadette,

and the Heart of Jesus from the vision of Marie-Marguerite Alacoque.

The mysterium of God Incarnate is most manifestly expressed in the Heart of Jesus image. The body in which it materialises is manifested in a burning heart, a blood-red sliver of entrails from which pound the flames of divine love. Alfons Marmon placed a Heart-of-Jesus Christ beneath the round arch of his Incarnation altar, not, however, in the intimacy of a Mass-card image intended for the meditation of an individual, but as Pantocrator. This union of the Christ of the Last Judgement and the Heart of Jesus image was a perhaps unique achievement, containing a theologem of unfathomable profundity. Marmon also found unorthodox motifs for the side altars; there,

St. Charles Borromeo was seen dispensing Communion to St. Aloysius of Gonzaga. Gerhard Tersteegen writes that the true history of the Church is the history of the Saints, the rest could just as well be assigned to profane history; I have seldom seen this thought as tellingly depicted as on this altar.

The liturgy creates its own space, this holding equally for the new liturgy of Pope Paul VI - it cannot be repeated emphatically and often enough that this liturgy does not correspond to the reform guidelines of the Second Vatican Council.

In 1968, the congregation of St. Raphael’s parish, in which the endowers of the altars still lived, was told that the Marmon altars were “controversial”. The date should be noted, an axial year, as Karl Jaspers would have it: student revolts in Germany, France, in the United States; the beginning of the Chinese Cultural Revolution with millions of dead, with its iconoclasm, the devastation of temples and artistic treasures, and the year of the liturgical reform. These events are interrelated, even if they appear not to be. Future historiography will have no choice but to see a connection here. Yet, at St. Raphael’s in Neuenheim the overthrow was not conducted in a revolutionary manner. The parishioners had a parish priest who, at the same time, was Rector of the City of Heidelberg. He was commended for his “skill in implementing in a masterly fashion the manifold reordering of the spiritual and pastoral domain and, equally, of the church exterior (in keeping with the Council)”. In the manner of an experienced surgeon he “gently” prepared the congregation “for the reordering”, as is related in the eulogy in honour of his fiftieth anniversary as a priest, only to make the incision suddenly and radically. The falseness of the claim that the Marmon altar was made of plaster became obvious as the sculptures were being chopped up and sawn apart and the limewood beneath the painted mounting became visible.

Photographs show the reverend old clergyman, who, in his respectable priestly attire, did not resemble a vandal, gazing at his demolition work with a calmly lucent smile. How had such a thing become possible?

I was born after the War, in 1951. As a child I experienced elder ladies and gentlemen at my parents’ home, intellectuals with snow-white hair, the men had a so-called Caesar cut, the women a ponytail and wore unshaped amber necklaces on a sack-like dress. For me, Modernity had a senile countenance. The formative experience of these people was the Youth Movement prior to the First World War. This was the century’s great cauldron of ideas. It fostered political movements which became deadly enemies, one has only to think of Communism and National Socialism. And not do only nudism, feminism, vegetarianism, neo-Paganism, pseudo-Indian meditation, Gay liberation, guitar-strumming and the Bauhaus have their roots and origins here, liturgical reform does, too. That the fervent idealism of good people who were abused and betrayed is to be found at the root of all these movements is another story. But the destructive lust once evoked by fiery cheeks at camp fires, cobbling together the fantasised downfall of the Old and the coming of some glorious new age, was to preserve itself from the infantile phase to an astonishingly old age.“Though must within the cask may raise a pother, / It turns to wine no less at last”, says Goethe’s Mephisto on seeing the youthfully moved Baccalaureus. In the 20th century, as Goethe could not have anticipated, the process was devised to stop the fermentation. In mock youthfulness, the sweetness of the must then remains conserved, yielding a fatal, head-aching concoction which one would not care to call wine. The youth cult of the 20th century is fulfilled in a ghastly curse: Ageing is not arrested, but the aged fail to mature and play the long-defunct games of youth until their demise. This is most prevalent in art, this closest relation of religion, where the avantgardisms of 1905 must still be reproduced as a sclerotic ritual almost one hundred years later. And, in her aggiornamento, the Church felt compelled to accomodate herself to this senile avantgardism in order to survive.

The story of St. Raphael’s has not yet ended. The apse was now stripped bare. The“reordering was conducted in a harmonious and, indeed, elegant fashion”, as is stated in the festschrift for the parish priest. “The altar in table form is the Eucharistic table of the new-covenant congregation (. . . ), altar rails no longer hinder the access of the Faithful. The chairmanship of the Eucharistic congregation is accorded to the priest (. . . ), he presides over the assembly, he conducts the proceedings” - from precisely the place where previously the tabernacle stood. The latter had now slid over to the side of the altar as a cupboard in the form of a jagged bronze tooth. “The order of things has simply shifted somewhat”, the parish priest told the congregation,“the Eucharistic proceedings and the active participation of the come-of-age Christian now stand in the foreground”. Yes, the order of things had indeed shifted somewhat. In what manner did Mary and John actively participate as they stood beneath the Cross? In beholding what came to pass, waiting and praying. But I do not wish to deal at length with the often and exhaustively debunked Reform jargon. Like Moses, it was not granted to the parish priest to reach the Promised Land. He led his People to the white plain. It was left to the next generation to fill the empty space.

Handicraft made its entrance into the world along with the Youth Movement, handicraft as weltanschauung and intellectually elevated activity. Sticking and hammering together all manner of rubbish and charging the resulting contraption with meaning became the shaman-like activity of the advanced artist. To the same extent to which the Christian priesthood was dismantled, a new caste of artist-priests emerged who laid the hand of benediction on their thus consecrated ‘work’. In Joseph Beuys critics saw the “Mystic of the Lower Rhine”; Otto von Simson, who is truly knowledgeable about medieval painting, discovered that two plastic sachets of blood plasma which Beuys mounted alongside a broken-off length of stick - the work is called “Crucifixion” - “had the force of a Giotto”. If this is done when the wood is green, then we cannot blame the parish priest of St. Raphael’s for ordering a Crucifixion for the empty apse from a friend and fellow priest - an artist-priest in both senses - who dabbled in art-rubbish in the Beuysian sense; a cross was missing, anyhow, and the altar, it goes without saying, was also devoid of one. Once again, the congregation was “gently” prepared. “Whoever finds a Way of the Cross appealing at first glance has arrived not at Golgotha, but at an allotment garden”, pronounced a functionary from the Catholic Academy in Mainz.




and Raphael

ought to put this maxim in their pipes and smoke it, had they dared to let the transcendent, incorruptible beauty of God Incarnate shine through his sufferings. The contempt for the petitbourgeois way of life is also symptomatic. Liturgical art must also serve allotment gardeners, quite emphatically so. The miracle of Catholicism consisted of a rite which met with the needs of the most illustrious minds of humanity and with those of illiterate goatherds, Chinese and Africans, Crusaders and atomic physicists.

In contrast to the destruction of the Marmon altars, which was accompanied by the stunned and confused silence of a congregation brought up to obey and respect their shepherd, objection was raised when the parish priest set about the task of making the acquisition of a collage by the artist and priest Udo Koerner palatable to the congregation. The work was called “Cry and Cloud”. The corpus of the Crucified Christ is made of bark and is merely hinted at, a mouth, from which a cry might emanate, is not distinguishable. Cross and corpus are split apart, not, one might add, in evocation of the hacking job done to the Marmon altar. Rusty wire netting hovers in the darkness above the cross. “Pious habits impede the beholder”, Koerner meant to say with his hackneyed graphic-artist statement. Aesthetic discussion is still conducted along wholly bogus lines of engagement - as if the notorious “Belling Stag” were still battling against an avant-garde undaunted by death. The “Belling Stag” simply no longer exists. Today, its place has been taken by works such as “Cry and Cloud”, “thought-provoking art which poses piercing questions of a ruthless candour”, as the unspeakably worn cliches proclaim. The dispute relating to the purchase of “Cry and Cloud” for the apse of St. Raphael did, however, lead to some good. True, the work hangs in the space where the Marmon altar stood, but an elderly member of the congregation made a remark well befitting of the struggle, a remark of truly great simplicity, “Christ became flesh and thus Man - should he not be depicted as Man?”

“They lunge as if in a thicket or forest, caring not whether they strike an altar or painting”, lamented Martin Luther on hearing of the iconoclastic excesses following the rabble-rousing sermons of his erstwhile protege Andreas Bodenstein von Carlstadt. Luther was not without blame for the iconoclasm of 1521 and 1522, which a great deal of Calvinistic iconoclasm was to follow. As was subsequently the case, he was horrified when it became clear what harm his writings were doing. What iconoclasm looked like is shown by a period report on the destruction of Reinhardtsbrunn Monastery, resting place of the Landgraves of Thuringia, “(...) in the monastery the sacrilege proceeded in the most frolicsome manner. With the desecrator’s hand the rabble destroyed the twenty-three altars with their precious carvings and images, these being artefacts of Catholic devotion, and threw them into the fire, ripped and slit asunder the sumptuous altar linens, shattered the three organs and twelve bells and divided among themselves what appeared to be of any use, spilled the Blessed Unction from an ornate vessel onto the earth and scattered the Hosts with the Blessed Sacrament; they tore the Saints from their shrines, made mischief with them and trampled upon them”. This is followed by the desecration of graves and a grand burning of books, the entire handwritten library of the monastery going up in flames. No, the destruction was not perpetrated in “harmonic and, indeed, elegant fashion”, no-one was “gently” prepared. The images of the great post-Conciliar destruction and of the Post-Reformation iconoclasm are similar, but not equatable.

And yet it is iconoclasm that we have experienced in the last 35 years. The destruction of the pictorial and pictorial incapability hallmark these decades. The wholly typical new altar image in St. Raphael’s is only ostensibly pictorial, in reality it is denial of the pictorial.

Now, it could be asked: Where should liturgical images of God Incarnate come from at a time in which the prevailing course of art proscribes the depiction of the human being at all? Is not recourse to the Second Commandment - “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image” - perhaps even most convenient? The Byzantine and Reformation iconoclasm took place against the background of this Second Commandment. With her icons and graven images the Church was accused of disregarding this divine commandment from Mount Sinai. This was a terrible accusation, for who could have dared to transgress a divine commandment in this way? From this accusation the fury can be explained with which images were destroyed in Byzantium and during the Reformation; this fury claimed to be a holy wrath, and here, perhaps, lies the greatest difference to the current iconoclasm, which is destruction out of fear and weakness.

Was the Church guilty of a malfeasance when, in the catacombs, she became a church of images? The Second Commandment is unequivocal. Only God himself can revoke it. And God did revoke it. He created his own image. One could go as far as to call Jesus Christ God’s self-portrait, for if anyone after Adam was God’s own image, Jesus was. Since Jesus, the Second Commandment of the Decalogue reads, “Thou shalt make unto thee an image, and this image shall be Jesus Christ”.

This image, therefore, distinguishes itself entirely from the magnificent depictions of the mythical godheads. It belongs to a wholly different artistic genre. The name has already been alluded to - the Jesus image belongs to the genus of portrait, it is the portrait of a real person. At the time of the early Christians portraiture was a sophisticated art. In Fayum, in the Hellenistic Egypt of the time, portraits emerged which are among the most realistic pictures of living persons; at the same time the art of the portrait bust blossomed in Rome. Everyone knew what a portrait was. And Christ, of course, was not to be idealised like a Greek deity. This was also not necessary, for there existed a real portrait, the impression on a great linen cloth that the early Christians held to be the folded shroud from the empty tomb mentioned in John. This cloth served as reference for the first painters of Christ icons. The unique face on this cloth became the model for the Christ archetype which, although constantly modified through the centuries, especially in the West, was recognisable for everyone until the most recent past, including our Heart-of-Jesus Christ from the Marmon altar. It is revealing to see just how the masters of precisely that epoch in which painting began to divorce itself from religion dealt with this Christ archetype: In the Last Supper

and Marriage Feast of Cana pictures of a Veronese,

for instance, a curiously pale Christ appears amidst a crowd of people modelled in full lifelikeness because the artist did not, or could not, dare to depart from tradition in a depiction of Christ. The traditional archetype also remained binding for artists who knew nothing of the shroud. The same is true for pictures of the Mother of God, where it did not depend in the first instance on whether the Evangelist Luke had actually painted Mary’s portrait -

more important is that the early Christians were concerned to own a real picture of Mary and not a fictive one.

Christ is the truth we must behold because it transcends all knowledge, to quote a dictum of Gregory of Nyssa, and what the Reformation termed ‘idolatory’ is, therefore, an essential part of the Christian religion. As a weak vestige of the Incarnation, Christians can’t venerate holy pictures enough. Even the most inept image is like the hem of Jesus’ garment which the woman in the throng behind him grasps, “for a power went out from him”, as is related in the Gospel of Luke, the painter of the Madonna. It can, in any case, be counted among the peculiar coincidences of history that, at the beginning of the century when the ability to paint man’s image disappeared, photographic negatives recalled to general awareness the body on the Turin Shroud, as if the image of God Incarnate were not also to disappear in the cultural catastrophe of imagelessness.

The liturgy is, of course, for its part, one grand image, for which reason the crisis of sacred imagery is accompanied by a crisis of the liturgy. Just as the Christ image was bestowed by God himself and just as the Christians tried to preserve the real image, they also linked the liturgy closely to the actual locations of the Resurrection. In the Holy Sepulchre, where the folded shroud was found, the Mass has been celebrated from earliest times because it was known that the Eucharist did not, in fact, primarily evoke the Last Supper of Maundy Thursday, but the death and resurrection of the Lord. In the Church of the Holy Sepulchre the way in which the local surroundings of the tomb came to form the liturgy can be felt even today. I speak not of the church interior poised above the tomb, but of the narrow burial chambers, the antechamber in which the women saw the youth in white robes, and the actual burial chamber with its recess for the corpse. Only few people can partake in the Mass there. The priest stays in the ante-chamber with the congregation until the Creed. For the Canon of the Mass he enters the burial chamber. There, he is alone and unseen. The altar is the recess in which the body of Jesus lay. The white altar cloth is the shroud, the Host the body. The manner and means by which the Host is filled with the divine presence remain hidden from the congregation who hear only the whispering of the priest. The Sacrifice of the Mass and the Resurrection become one. At the same time it becomes clear where the early Christians’ desire stems from to have the holy mysteries unfold behind iconostasis, chancel screen and altar gates, concealed by the priest’s body. The hermetic rapture with which the old Latin Liturgy girded the moment of consecration represents nothing other than the Holy Sepulchre weighed down by a rock, in which God Incarnate returned from the dead. This event was witnessed by the cosmos, but by no living person. What appears as a later addition to the liturgy, as an epiphenomenon of Constantinian basilicas and Gothic cathedrals, proves to be most intimately connected to the quintessence of the Resurrection. Christian liturgy is the waiting beneath the Cross and before the Sepulchre. The liturgy reform attempted to erase this image, also.

The Sepulchre of Jerusalem is the image of the old liturgy.

The latter looked to the resurrected Christ and thus turned towards the East. For the liturgy, the rising sun was the sign of creation, the Resurrection and the Second Coming of Christ. In their expectation, priest and congregation prayed in the same direction. Following the liturgical reform the priest has turned around, faces the congregation whilst purporting to speak to God. The model of the new liturgy is the committee table with microphone and papers at a political or club gathering, an Ikebana dish with an old root and bizarre orange-coloured exotic plants standing to the left, on the right a television candle in a hobby-pottery candlestick. The dignified and collected committee members look into the audience, as do the clergy during the concelebration. Such a club meeting with democratic procedural rules is the phenotype of the new liturgy, and this is only consistent, for whoever renounces the timeless mysterium will inevitably end up in the political and social reality. There is no third way. Naturally, the occasional problem arises. There are said to be clergymen who have difficulties putting on the right face at the Consecration. Which facial expression suits the Consecration? Here, once again, a Goethe quote from the dialogue of Faust and Wagner: “I’ve often heard the boast a preacher / Might take an actor as his teacher. - Yes, if the preacher is an actor, there’s no doubt, / As it indeed may sometimes come about.” It is only consistent that age-old Mass texts such as the Feast of the Martyrs Perpetua and Fliciatas, in which the Mass is spoken of in relation to “sacred mysteries”, to “mysterious gifts and joys”, were excised. It goes without saying that “mysterious gifts and joys” can be expected from no committee table in the world.

For where the Rite is no longer discernable in its power to evoke the Incarnation, those parts of the Mass which, at first glance, are of a non-ritual nature also cease to be understood in the fullness they possess in the liturgy, such as the Reading from the Gospel and the Credo. What is liturgical? The effective agency of prayer is liturgical. Liturgical prayer is always sacramental - it effects the scanctifying and blessful agency of Christ. The reading of the Gospel in the Mass is, therefore, not the conveying of a text with which the listeners should grapple, but the sin-forgiving presence of the teaching and healing Christ, and the Gospels would seem to be thus conceived. As a liturgical prayer, the Creed is no collection of dogmas partly enforced - at various Councils - with truculency, but rather a new entering of each individual into the purifying freshness of baptism, presence of the Communion of Saints, ecclesiasticising agency of the Trinity. This agency is inconceivable in the new liturgy, it is not even desired.

It is part of the peculiar nature of this century that the axe was taken to the green tree of the liturgy and that, simultaneously, the most profound insights into the liturgy were formulated, albeit not within the Roman Church, but rather the Church of Byzantium. A Pope violated the liturgy. The Orthodoxy which broke with the pope preserved the liturgy and liturgical theology through the terrible ordeals of the century. For a Catholic who denies himself recourse to the obvious cynical conclusions these facts present an agonising puzzle. One is tempted to speak of a tragic puzzle, although the word tragic has no business in the Christian context. The Mass of Saint Gregory the Great, the old Latin Liturgy, today finds itself at the ‘lunatic fringe’ of the Roman Church, whilst the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysosthom thrives in full splendour at the centre of the Orthodox Church. The thought of learning from Orthodoxy is not popular. One will, however, have to become accustomed to the thorough study of what the Byzantine Church has to say on icons and the Liturgy. This applies undiminished to the essential nature of the Latin Rite, indeed it would appear as if its full spiritual compass can be appreciated only from an Eastern perspective. For me, it is among the most hopeful signs that the Pope (then John Paul II) has included the picture of Florenski, who, incidentally, is not a Saint of the Orthodox Church and whose canonization is not under consideration, in his private chapel.

Chesterton reminds us that hope founded on the remotest probability can no longer actually be deemed a Christian virtue. Should the hope that the old Christian Liturgy be revived by pope reading Florenski therefore be considered all too naive, there might still remain enough room for the great absurd Christian Hope. Whoever believes that the Liturgy of the Incarnation and sacred images are intimately and fundamentally connected to faith in Christ, that they, indeed, emanate from him, and whoever can more readily imagine the demise of religion rather than its continued existence without liturgy, may privately think this demise a sure thing as far as the outcome of the catastrophe is concerned. As the example of the Byzantine iconoclasm shows, one hundred years are nothing when it comes to overcoming such an affliction. Until such times, the resistance of unbending priests and monks is required, as once in Byzantium, to keep tradition alive in order that it must not one day be reconstructed from books. Some parishioners from St. Raphael’s in Heidelberg rescued spolia from the destruction of their altars. Following the example of Saint Francis, who rebuilt the Portiuncula Chapel,

they might try to reconstruct the Heart-of-Jesus-Pantocrator altar.

(from another Church)

On the first Sunday of Lent, the Orthodox Church celebrates the cessation of the Iconoclasm with the great ‘Feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy’. And thus I dream of a day when at this and at many other re-erected high altars the triumph of Latin Orthodoxy may be gratefully commemorated. Translated from the German by Philip Savage.

Martin Mosebach's "Heresy of Formlessness" can be obtained from


Father Garrigou-Lagrange OP

The only full biography that I am aware of.
Works of the great Dominican theologian.
Fr. Reginald Marie Garrigou-Lagrance, P.O. (1877-1964) was probably the greatest Catholic theologian of the 20th century. (He is not to be confused with his uncle, Pére Lagrange, the biblical scholar.) Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange initially attracted attention in the early 20th century when he wrote against Modernism. Recognizing that Modernism - which denied the objective truth of divine revelation, and affirmed a heretical conception of the evolution of dogma - struck at the very root of Catholic faith, Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange wrote classic works on apologetics, defending the Catholic Faith by way of both philosophy and theology. He taught at the Angelicum in Rome from 1909 to 1960, and he served for many years as a consulter to the Holy Office and other Roman Congregations. He is most famous, however, for his writings, producing over 500 books and articles. In these he showed himself to be a thorough Thomist in the classic Dominican tradition. Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange was best known for his spiritual theology, particularly for insisting that all are called to holiness and for zealously propounding the thesis that infused contemplation and the resulting mystical life are in the normal way of holiness or Christian perfection. His classic work in this field - and his overall masterpiece - is the Three AGes of the Interior Life, in which the Catholic Faith stands out in all its splendor as a divine work of incomparable integrity, structure and beauty, ordered to raise man to the divine life of grace and bring to flower in him the "supernatural organism" of Sanctifying Grace and the Seven Gifts of the Holy Ghost - the wellsprings of all true mysticism.

Pope Benedict XVI

Interview with the Pope on German television.

As long as the Bishops Conferences do not have the final say. Sadly, the Pope does not discuss the intercession of the saints, the issue that definitively seperates Catholics from protestants.

"Interviewer: Your predecessor beatified and canonized a huge number of Christians. Some people say even too many. This is my question: beatifications and canonizations only bring something new to the Church when these people are seen as true models. Germany produces relatively few saints and blessed in comparison with other countries. Can anything be done to develop this pastoral sphere so that beatifications and canonizations can give real pastoral fruit?

In the beginning I also thought that the large number of beatifications was almost overwhelming and that perhaps we needed to be more selective; choosing figures that entered our consciousness more clearly. Meanwhile, I decentralized the beatifications in order to make these figures more visible in the specific places they came from. Perhaps a saint from Guatemala doesn't interest us in Germany and vice versa, someone from Altoetting is of no interest in Los Angeles, and so on, right? I also think that this decentralization is more in keeping with the collegiality of the episcopate, with its collegial structures, and that it's suitable for stressing how different countries have their own personalities and these are especially effective in these countries. I've also seen how these beatifications in different places touch vast numbers of people and that people say: 'At last, this one is one of us!' They pray to him and are inspired. The blessed soul belongs to them and we're happy there are lots of them. And if, gradually, with the development of a global society, we too get to know them, that's wonderful. But it's especially important that multiplicity exists in this field also because it's important that we too in Germany get to know our own figures and are happy for them."

"Besides this issue there's that of the canonization of greater figures who are examples for the whole Church. I'd say that the individual Episcopal Conferences ought to choose, ought to decide what's best for them, what this person is saying to us, and they should give visibility to people who leave a profound impression, but not too many of them. They can do it through catechesis, preaching, or through the presentation of a film, perhaps. I can imagine some wonderful films. Of course, I only know well the Church Fathers: a film about Augustine, or one on Gregory Nazianzen who was very special, how he continually fled the ever greater responsibilities he was given, and so on. We need to study: there are not only the awful situations we depict in many of our films, there are also wonderful historical figures who are not at all boring and who are very contemporary. We must try not to overload people too much but to give visibility to many figures who are topical and inspirational."

The Myth

of Hitler's Pope
Traditional Latin Catholic Mass

A long but excellent video

St Michael's Abbey, Farnborough

and the last resting place of Emperor Napoleon III of France.

When I went into the local pub, they were unaware of that the last Emperor and Empress of France were buried not 500 yards away.

Audio file from the BBC.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Lambert Beauduin OSB

Don't let the kindly face of this old monk deceive you. He was second only to Annibale Bugnini in his influence of the modern Catholic liturgy.

I have his biography (over 1000 pages). Every mistake modern liturgists now make was suggested by him prior to the Second World War. Posted by Picasa


The Monastic Community of Bose in Italy can't remember which religion they belong to. Posted by Picasa

Progressive Catholic newspaper in Austria

How Benedict XVI would like to make him forgotten!

Not true but always a convenient myth for progressives and apostates from the Church to say how reactionary the present Pope is. This gives them an excuse for all sorts of misbehaviour and disrespect. Posted by Picasa

German catastrophe


Percentage participation at Sunday Mass. Note the small but significant downward slide immediately after the Council.



Marriages Posted by Picasa


At the bottom
Returns (boosted by repentant sinners after the peak of departures in the early 1990s)


See also Decline

An abbey returns

to its former glory.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Decline of the Catholic Church in Germany

Now with easier to read tables.

The only indicators on the up are permanent deacons (top right) and pastoral assistants (bottom left). The latter have to be paid a wage, so economic pressure has led to the flattening of their growth in recent years. Failed priestly vocations feed into the figures for the permanent deacons. The tables are taken from a German charismatic Catholic publication, ironically called Weg-Bereiter - Preparer of the Way!!! Better to say "taking a tumble over the cliff".

The tables

Diocesan priests: permanent deacons

Priests in religious orders: brothers in religious life

Nuns: secular institutes

Men and women in pastoral service

The red line is the total number in the vocational group. the lower line the number of new members.

Also the post-conciliar catastrophe in figures and more here. This is not a problem just in Germany or Europe. It is a problem for the whole Catholic Church.