08 September 2018

Whatever Happened To The Ember Days?

Ember Days, the days of fasting and abstinence at the beginning of each of the seasons, are ancient in origin.  According to the Catholic Encyclopaedia: 

"The 'Liber Pontificalis' ascribes to Pope Callistus (217-222) a law ordering the fast, but probably it is older. Leo the Great (440-461) considers it an Apostolic institution. When the fourth season was added cannot be ascertained, but Gelasius (492-496) speaks of all four. This pope also permitted the conferring of priesthood and deaconship on the Saturdays of ember week - these were formerly given only at Easter. Before Gelasius the ember days were known only in Rome, but after his time their observance spread. They were brought into England by St. Augustine."

(Rogation Days are also an ancient tradition:

"Days of prayer, and formerly also of fasting, instituted by the Church to appease God's anger at man's transgressions, to ask protection in calamities, and to obtain a good and bountiful harvest.")

Few Catholics under the age of 70 (other than those who regularly attend the EF) will know what these are, as they were done away with.  Strange to say, this was not by Bugnini and his colleagues, although they were happy to mess with them. Bugnini writes:

"The Ember Days are to be celebrated at times and on days to be determined by the episcopal conferences, provided that they are in harmony with the seasons and thus truly correspond to the purposes for which they were established."

Pope Paul told Bugnini that he would insist that any periods which replaced the then-existing Ember Days should be carefully determined by the episcopal conferences and that should also be days of prayer for vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

So where are the Ember Days?

According to the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales:

"Amongst these other celebrations, from the earliest times have been the rogation and ember days, days of prayer for particular need or in thanksgiving for particular blessings of the Lord. Since 1972 the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has preferred to drop all distinction between ember and rogation days, and to speak simply of Days of special prayer.

In 1972 six such days were introduced but in the years which followed the number of such days increased to such an extent that they risked intruding on the celebration of the liturgical year, and especially on the celebration of the Lord’s Day on Sundays. Subsequently the Bishops’ Conference concluded that from Advent 1996 these Days of special prayer be subsumed into and replaced by a Cycle of Prayer.

The Cycle of Prayer seeks to preserve the integrity of the Sunday liturgy, without losing sight of the importance of being united with the universal or local Church in praying and working for important intentions. It seeks to do this be encouraging the faithful to pray for the intentions set out in the Cycle in their personal prayers throughout the period specified, and not only at Mass on a particular day.

The Cycle of Prayer is based on a division of the year into six periods, three of these being the principal liturgical seasons of Advent/Christmas; Lent and Easter and the other three periods being divisions of Ordinary Time, namely Winter, Summer and Autumn."

So apart from losing their initial capital letters, the Ember and Rogation Days were merged, were stripped of their penitential character, were separated from their association with the seasons and harvests, were moved from their ancient, perhaps even apostolic, dates, and were then abolished and replaced by a "Cycle of Prayer", which was apparently instituted in 1996, and which is important enough to have a page dedicated to it by the CBCEW Liturgy Office (here), and which I, for one, have never heard of before.

This is how Nu-Church is constructed.  Take something venerable and say how important it is: so important that it needs to be specially adapted for every country and territory; and if the adaptation kills it off, well: that's how traditions evolve, isn't it. And if what replaces the venerable something ends up being neglected and ignored by everybody, it must be that the venerable something needed to have been abolished anyway.

02 September 2018


I tweeted something yesterday that I feel needs a bit of unpacking. I tweeted:

My point is that people of a wide range of different ecclesiologies can separate their views of different Popes from their iews of the rightness or wrongness of their actions, or at least some of their actions.

In the current crisis, it is possible to be critical of the actions of each of Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis for seeming to put the need to avoid public scandal above the need for justice to be seen to be done.  Was John Paul II too concerned to portray the Church as an indivisible sign of contradiction to modern times? Was Benedict XVI too meek and mild to be able to take on powerful cardinals? Is Francis too keen on cronyism? None of these criticisms necessarily affects my view of the three men as Popes. They are men: sinful, fallible men, as I am sinful and fallible.

What interest me is the papolatry of those who seem to view the world with a hermeneutic that starts with "Everything Pope Francis done is the best possible thing to do". What could impel otherwise intelligent and experienced commentators to defend an indefensible proposition.  Defending Francis as probably the last chance to implement a Church desired by many as the implementation of the spirit of Vatican II is at least a coherent point of view, but papolatry is wrong, and dangerous too.

11 August 2018

An Example Of What I'm Getting At

Have a look at three versions of how the next twelve days were, could extraordinarily and are ordinarily being celebrated.  I haven't included the particular arrangements for the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle in 1866 caused by its celebration of the Dedication of the Pro-Cathedral.) Vespers on Sunday are included because they were a natural part of parish life in the nineteenth century. This is the Calendar as seen by a layperson in England and Wales.

The Indulgence is one of eight periods of the year in which Catholics were urged to communicate and to earn a plenary indulgence when doing so.  The conditions varied, but for this indulgence (and three others) they were:

You will note that the fourth condition requires a sort of community service: you can't be a Catholic and not be part of a community you have to serve.

Post-1962 EF
2018 OF
The Indulgence begins

12 SUNDAY. 12th after Pentecost. St Clare, Virgin, double; 2nd prayers and last Gospel of the Sunday. Second Vespers of the Feast of St Clare, commemoration of the Sunday, the Octave of St Laurence and Sts Hippolytus and Cassian, Martyrs. White.
12 SUNDAY. 12th after Pentecost. 2nd class. Green
12 SUNDAY. 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Green.
13 Monday. Of the Octave, semidouble; 2nd prayers of Sts Hippolytus and Cassian, Martyrs, 3rd prayers Concede. Red.
13 Monday. Feria 4th class. Commemoration of Sts Hippolytus and Cassian, Martyrs. Green.
13 Monday. Weekday in Ordinary Time (or Sts Pontian and Hippolytus, Martyrs). Green (or Red).
14 Tuesday. Vigil of the Assumption. 2nd prayers of the Octave, 3rd prayers of St Eusebius, Confessor, Violet. FAST.
14 Vigil of the Assumption, 2nd class Vigil. Commemoration of St Eusebius, Confessor. Violet.
14 Tuesday. St Maximilian Kolbe, Priest Martyr. Memorial. Red
15 Wednesday. The ASSUMPTION of the BVM, double of the 1st class with an Octave. during which commemoration of the Octave, Creed and Preface of the BVM. White. Second Vespers of the Feast, commemoration of St Hyacinth only. Plenary Indulgence.
15 Wednesday. The ASSUMPTION of the BVM, 1st class. White.
15 Wednesday. The Assumption of the BVM. Solemnity. White.
16 Thursday. St Hyacinth, Confessor, double. White.
16 Thursday. St Joachim, Father of the BVM. 2nd class. White.
16 Thursday. Weekday in Ordinary Time (or St Stephen of Hungary, King Martyr). Green (or Red).
17 Friday. The Octave of St Laurence, Martyr, double. Red. Abstinence.
17 Friday. St Hyacinth, Confessor. 3rd Class. White. Abstinence.
17 Friday. Weekday in Ordinary Time. Green.
18 Saturday. Of the Octave of the Assumption, semidouble; 2nd prayers of St Agapitus, Martyr, 3rd prayers of the Holy Ghost. White.
18 Saturday. The BVM on Saturday. 4th Class. Commemoration of St Agapitus. White.
18 Saturday. Weekday in Ordinary Time. Green.
19 SUNDAY, 13th after Pentecost. St Joachim, Father of the BVM, greater double; 2nd prayers and last Gospel of the Sunday, 3rd prayers of the Octave, Preface of the BVM. White. Second Vespers of the Feast, commemoration of St Bernard Confessor and Doctor, of the Sunday and of the Octave. 
19 SUNDAY. 13th after Pentecost. 2nd Class. Green
19 SUNDAY. 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Green.
20 Monday. St Bernard, Confessor Doctor, double. White.
20 Monday. St Bernard, Confessor Doctor. 3rd Class. White.
20 Monday. St Bernard, Abbot Doctor. Memorial. White
21 Tuesday. St Jane Frances de Chantal, Widow, double. White.
21 Tuesday. St Jane Frances de Chantal, Widow. 3rd class. White.
21 Tuesday. St Pius X, Pope. Memorial. White.
22 Wednesday. The Octave of the Assumption of the BVM, double; 2nd prayers of St Timothy and Companions, Martyrs. White.

The Indulgence ends
22 Wednesday. The Immaculate Heart of Mary. 2nd class. Commemoration of St Timothy and Companions, Martyrs. White.
22 Wednesday. The Queenship of the BVM. Memorial. White.

The main difference between the first two calendars is the sabbatarianism that precludes almost every Sunday from being a saint's day. That destroys a different relationship: that between the BVM, whose Assumption is celebrated as a Holyday of Obligation, and the next Sunday (ie the next time lay Catholics would attend Mass) on which Her father's feast was celebrated. And as Her father's feast was celebrated during the Octave of the feast of the Assumption, the preface at Mass is of the BVM, uniting St Joachim and the BVM to the action of the priest in re-presenting Christ's sacrifice on Calvary. That whole structure of relationships disappeared. St Hyacinth was shifted from the 16th to the 17th so that St Joachim could have his feast on the day after the Assumption - but few laypeople would get to Church on a weekday.

The abolition of the Octave of the Assumption made a temporary home for the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which had been celebrated on the third Sunday after Pentecost (unsurprisingly the Sunday in the Octave of the Sacred Heart of Jesus) but which had effectively disappeared from the Calendar. The Queenship of Mary is a modern feast, instituted by Pius XII. Whichever form you choose, however, you are celebrating the abolition of the Octave of the BVM.  Octaves are special weeks: some feasts are sufficiently important to have Vigils on which we fast so that we can better celebrate the feast itself, and the feast shapes the character of its Octave.  At the start of this week our 1866 ancestors are in the Octave of St Laurence; our modern EF brethren get the Vigil (do they still fast?), but not the Octave.  In the OF the feast on a Friday is probably an excuse to avoid abstinence.

I could labour this, but I won't The fact remains that a structure of lex orandi lex vivendi lex credendi was broken and recast, and the new version didn't - couldn't - work as well as what came before it.

10 August 2018

The Calendar, 1910 Versus 1962: Trad Liturgiology Redux; (The Usual)

There are two triggers for this post: the first was a disagreement on Twitter about whether a parishioner used to the pre-1910 Mass would even notice that Mass said according to the 1962 Missal was different. The other was a discussion with Rita in the combox of her blog about weaknesses which accompany the practice of the EF in England and Wales.  I wondered whether the experience of some of the new EF-only parishes might be providing green shoots which isolated EF Masses in resolutely OF parishes can't provide.  She answered:

"To me it is the whole sacramental life that is so terribly important, more so than simply the Mass, I have no attachment to the 1962; it is confession, veneration of relics, fasting, feasting, pilgrimages, blessing of food and other material objects, beating the bounds, family prayers/grace before meals, Vespers and psalmody in general, guilds, preaching outside of the Mass, parish retreats and conferences, 40 hours, churching, death as part of family life and not a clinical thing, prayers for the dead, remembrances of the dead, patron saints' days, angelus, litanies....

The Church Suffering and the Church Triumphant are overlooked too much..."

I wrote three years ago about the regular schedule of the parish of St John the Evangelist in Islington in 1863:

"The Missionary Rector of the Parish of St John the Evangelist on Duncan-terrace in Islington is the Very Rev Canon Oakeley, and he is assisted by the Revv William Ignatius Dolan, Andrew Mooney and Jean Baptiste Laborie Rey.  Masses on Sundays are at 7.00, 8.00, 9.00 and 10.00, with High Mass at 11.00.  Catechism and Benediction is at 3.00 pm, and Vespers and Benediction are at 7.00.  Weekday Masses are at 7.00 and 9.30.  On Holydays, Masses are at 5.00, 7.00, 9.00 and 10.00, with High Mass at 11.00, and Vespers and Benediction at 7.30.  On Days of Devotion, there is High Mass at 7.00, and Low Masses at 9.00 and 10.00. Vespers and Benediction are at 7.30. Every Thursday, and on all feasts of Our Lord, the BVM and St Francis of Assisi, there is Benediction with Instruction at 8.00 pm.  Sermon and Devotions in French are on Fridays at 8.00 pm. Every other evening there is Rosary or other Devotions at 8.00. Instruction and Devotions for the Confraternity of the Holy and Immaculate Heart are on Wednesday at 8.00 pm, with Benediction on the first Wednesday of the month. Compline is said at 7.30 on Thursdays in Lent except for Holy Thursday or during the Forty Hours Devotion.  Devotions every evening in May for the month of Mary, and every evening in November for the souls in Purgatory.

There are in this Church chapels of the Blessed Sacrament, our Our Blessed Lady, and of St Francis of Assisi, to the last of which the great Indulgence of Portiuncula is attached, and may be gained at each visit made between 6.00 pm on 1 August and sunset on the next evening.  Confraternities of the Most Holy Sacrament od of the Holy and Immaculate Heart of Mary; also of the Scapular of Mount Carmel and of the Seven Dolours.  By Rescripts of His present Holiness, a Plenary Indulgence can be gained once a year by visiting the Church any day on the usual conditions; also on the feast of St Francis of Assisi, and of the Stigmata, and on the first Sunday of every month.

The Church is open every day from 6.30 am to 4.30 pm, and from 6.00 to 9.00 pm.  Confessions are on Wednesday and Friday until 11.00, and every other day till 12.00 noon; also on Wednesday and Friday at 7.00 pm, and on Saturday at 6.00 pm.  Baptism and Churching on Sundays at 2.00 pm, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10.30 am.

Pretty well exactly the sort of parish life Rita described.

I think the parishioner from 1863 catapulted into any modern parish and attending a 1962 Mass on a Sunday would notice an almost immediate difference: that Masses after Pentecost would be celebrated by priests in green; would be struck after a few days by the number of times the Last Gospel was In Principio instead of a second Proper Gospel; and more slowly would come to realise that the prayer life of parishes has changed dramatically. The rhythm of the parish as it existed in 1863 and for which Rita yearns (as do so many of us) has gone. The Divino Affatu reforms of Pius X inevitably opened the way to the subsequent reforms of the twentieth century just as the early Henrician reforms - the 10 Articles, say - were a precursor to Anglicanism. The difference is that where Henry VIII was being manipulated by protestant moles, Pius X believed, or was led to believe, that his reform would tidy up the calendar and relieve priests of some of the pressure the Office as it stood placed on them.

The Pian change was a gross piece of clericalism: it put the perceived interests of the clergy before other considerations, changing the calendar and the immemorial link between the Church's year and the year lived by parishioners in it, instead of relieving the onerous obligations of parish clergy by other means (for example, reducing the amount of the Office they were obliged to say). A sledgehammer cracked the nut, and destroyed not just the shell, but the seed inside as well.

I think the reason that Summorum Pontificum has not produced much traction since 2007 is that the 1962 Mass by itself is not an answer to any of the problems facing the Church, however much it might nourish the faith and practice of individuals within it.  The Mass needs to be thought of as part of the Office, and the Mass and the Office need to be thought of as parochial actions, and not just things done by the priest.

We can't go back to 1910 (though we could return to pre-1955 fairly straightforwardly).  But before we do anything, we should be looking at Preston and Birkenhead, at Reading and Warrington, to see if an exclusively EF environment will be able to re-evangelise Catholic England and Wales, if not the whole of England and Wales.

03 June 2018


Rereading, as one does, Thurston's Lent And Holy Week (1904), I was particularly taken by something he writes about Tenebrae, about the strepitus and the final candle, both of which were abolished during the 1955 "Reform".

"With regard to the noise made at the end before the candle is brought from behind the altar, I am afraid that the explanation usually found in the Holy Week books cannot be historically justified. It is made, they remark, to represent the confusion of nature at the death of its Author, or, as the old Liber Festivalis, which I quoted not long since, tells us, 'The strokes that the priest giveth on the book betokeneth the claps of thunder, when Christ brake hell gates, and despoiled them, and set out Adam and Eve and all that He had bought with His bitter Passion'. I fear, however, that historically speaking a much more prosaic account must be given of this noise. When the public recitation of office was concluded, the abbot or presiding prelate always gave the signal for the monks to move out of the choir by knocking the bench, or by one of those wooden clappers which may still be seen abroad used for this purpose. There is little doubt that the noise at the end of  Tenebrae has no other origin than this. The pious imaginations of the medieval liturgists sought for mystical meanings everywhere and found them, but let me repeat that there is no disrespect to our sacred ceremonies involved in attributing to them in many cases a quite matter-of-fact origin. The symbolism of any rite depends not upon the fact that it was designed with a mystical intention by its first inventors, but only upon this, that under the providence of God and with the tacit approval of Holy Church, a certain meaning has become attached to it in the minds of the faithful. The word clock, it has been said in an earlier chapter, was originally used to designate a clacking thing which made a noise - and so a bell; but it would he the height of absurdity for any one to insist that it must mean a bell now and not a timepiece. Thus many of our most beautiful pieces of symbolism are certainly after-thoughts which never entered into the mind of the framers of the ceremony (we shall see an admirable instance later in the incense grains for the paschal candle); but some even of the most fanciful interpretations can plead a venerable antiquity, and the symbolism is true and deserves respect the moment it is generally accepted by the faithful at large."

This is why 1962 and 1955 won't do.  You can't simply change things on an archaeological whim. And if you do, you have to accept responsibility: you gave the reformers an inch, and they took a mile.

02 April 2018

More Bugnini


I'm occasionally asked why I bang on about the pre-1911 order of things in the Church.  It's because the liturgical archaeologism which guided liturgical reform in the second half of the twentieth century didn't restore the Liturgy to some pristine, authentic, original: instead it took it further and further away from its origins until it became a creation of people with an agenda which can most charitably be described as "untraditional".

Let me offer two citations:

Prior to its modernisation in the reforms of 1970 the Easter Vigil Mass presented a number of very ancient features.  As well as the absence of any Introit, there was no Creed, no Offertory verse, no kiss of peace, no Agnus Dei and no Communion verse. Incense was carried as normal at the Gospel but no lights. The mediaeval commentators supplied allegorical interpretations for these omissions; Durandus, for example, tells us that the absence of lights at the Gospel signifies that Christ has not yet risen but lies in the tomb, and the omission of the Creed indicates the uncertainty of weak minds. The real reason is once again the operation of Baumstark's Law.  Almost all the features which were omitted in the Easter Vigil Mass had been adopted into the Roman Mass from outside sources in the period between the late fourth century and the twelfth century.  What survived in the Easter Vigil liturgy prior to 1970, therefore, represented, at least externally, the form of Mass as it was celebrated in Rome around the middle of the fourth century, modified only by a few later additions, such as the prayers said silently by the celebrant at the Offertory and before his communion, and, until 1955, the Last Gospel.
 Festa Paschalia Philip J Goddard

(The General Intercessions (Orationes Sollemnes) of Good Friday can also be dated from the late fourth century.) 
In the ecumenical climate of Vatican II, some expressions in the orations sollemnes of the Good Friday service had a bad ring to them. There were urgent requests to tone down some of the wording. It is always unpleasant to have to alter venerable texts that for centuries have effectively nourished Christian devotion and have about them the spiritual fragrance of the heroic age of the church's beginnings. Above all, it is difficult to revise literary masterpieces that are unsurpassed for their pithy form. It was nevertheless thought necessary to face up to the task, lest anyone find reason for spiritual discomfort in the prayer of the Church.
 The revisions, limited to what was absolutely necessary, were prepared by study group 18bis. In Intercession I: "For the Church", the phrase "subiciens ei principatus et potestates" ("subjecting principalities and powers to it [the Church]") was omitted, even though this was inspired by what St. Paul says about the "angelic powers” (Col 2:15), it could be misinterpreted as referring to a temporal role which the church did indeed have in other periods of history but which is anachronistic today. Intercession VII was given a new title: "For Unity Among Christians" (instead of "For the Unity of the Church"). The text was changed so that it no longer referred to "heretics" and "schismatics", but to "all our brothers and sisters who share our faith in Christ.” Intercession VIII: "For the Jewish People", (instead of "For the Conversion of the Jews") was completely rewritten. Intercession IX: "For Those Who Do Not Believe in Christ" (instead of: "For the Conversion of Unbelievers") was likewise completely rewritten.
 The Reform of the Liturgy 1948-1975 Anibale Bugnini