“Behold the tabernacle of God with men, and he will dwell with them. And they shall be his people; and God himself with them shall be their God.” – Revelation 21:3
St. Philip’s feast always falls within that sunny period of the Church’s year when, passing from Easter to Ascensiontide and following on to Pentecost and Corpus Christi, we find our days running over with the majesty of these great mysteries. The days grow longer, and so they seem to grow more golden with the ever-descending light of the Holy Ghost. We are in a season of peculiar glory. The culminating lesson of these mysteries is clear: God has made his dwelling among men, and in the midst of His people shall He reign.
St. Philip knew this truth well. His whole life could well be described as a journey between Pentecost and Corpus Christi, the two feasts that most clearly teach us of God’s enduring presence in His Church. It was on the Vigil of Pentecost, 1544, that St. Philip received the grace that would define his vocation the character of his sanctity. While praying in the catacombs of San Sebastiano, the Holy Ghost descended into St. Philip’s heart visibly and sensibly in the form of a ball of fire. This experience, which provided as much heat and pain as rapturous joy, marked the true beginning of St. Philip’s active ministry. In St. Philip, the Holy Ghost once again made His dwelling among men.
From then on, St. Philip’s whole life would be marked by a singular union with the Holy Ghost. He became the “tabernacle of the Most High” and a living fountain of graces. His many miracles testify to the indwelling of the Spirit within him. So does his manifest oddity, his clear and salutary estrangement from the ways and works of ordinary men. The prophet writes, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts: nor your ways my ways, saith the Lord.” So does the Holy Ghost speak from the heart of St. Philip. For this reason, the Church applies the words of St. Paul to the new Apostle of Rome:
The love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Spirit of God dwelling within us
Introit for the Feast of St. Philip Neri
St. Philip’s priestly life was marked by the overwhelming presence of God. Everything about him spoke to the present reality of the supernatural. This reality took two chief forms. The most famous were the astounding miracles wrought by St. Philip – most notably the raising of Prince Paolo Massimo from the dead. But there was also St. Philip’s profound adoration of the Eucharist. His popularization of the Forty Hours’ Devotion was but the visible extension of his love of the Blessed Sacrament. So too were the Eucharistic ecstasies to which he was increasingly susceptible as he became older. St. Philip knew no sweeter hours than those that he spent at Mass as an old man, kneeling in darkness before the altar, lost in the rarefied heights of a contemplation we can barely begin to fathom.
In recalling the holiness of Saint Philip, it occurs to me that it was essentially this: he was all priest. He was always and everywhere a priest. His priesthood suffused his very being, making him incandescent with the fire of the Cross and of the altar.
St. Philip’s extraordinary endowment with the Spirit was ordered towards his life as a priest – namely, towards the glory of God in the Eucharist. This is the case with all of us. The Spirit, God in us, is given precisely for us to receive the Eucharist, God with us. Confirmation, like all the other sacraments, exists with the Eucharist as its proper telos.
How fitting, then, that St. Philip should pass into eternal life when he did. May the 25th, 1595, was the feast of Corpus Christi. As Fr. Faber has it,
Day set on Rome! its golden morn Had seen the world’s Creator borne Around St. Peter’s square Trembling and weeping all the way, God’s Vicar with his God that day Made pageant brave and rare!
“St. Philip’s Death,” F.W. Faber
Providence often grants the saints a Christ-like death. It is a sign that, even in suffering and death, God is still dwelling with us. St. Benedict died in choro during a liturgy, just as Christ died in the fulfillment of His high priesthood. Many martyrdoms were accompanied by strange signs and mystical evocations of the Sacrifice of Christ. It should be no surprise that God would take St. Philip in a similarly edifying manner.
In his death, St. Philip reminds us that we are all meant to imitate Christ in His Sacrifice, that is, in the Blessed Sacrament. There is no more perfect pedagogue in the life of the Spirit than the Son, who has presented Himself to us on all the altars of the world. Would that we might take this lesson to heart!
St. Philip died when he did because, by a singular grace of Providence, God was pleased to mark His servant’s passing with the Church’s celebration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar. Just as St. Philip honored the Eucharistic God in his life, so did the Eucharistic God honor him in his death.
We, too, can honor the saint best by cleaving to the Lord. St. Philip’s words to a spiritual daughter are as true today as they once were:
“Let us concentrate ourselves so completely in the divine love, and enter so far into the living fountain of wisdom, through the wounded Side of our Incarnate God, that we may deny ourselves and our self-love, and so be unable to find our way out of that Wound again.”
St. Philip Neri
God dwells with us just as He once dwelt in the blessed heart of St. Philip. He comes to us just as He came once to the priestly hands of St. Philip. Let us abide in Him, just as St. Philip did once and does forevermore in the heights of Heaven.
Dr. Peter Kwasniewski has an excellent Facebook post (which I very much hope he will turn into an article) demonstrating why the pre-1955 Easter Vigil is superior to alternatives within the Roman Rite. An excerpt:
One could go on and on… The bottom line is that the whole liturgy, one vast hymn of praise to the might of God revealed in the creation of the world, the creation of the old Israel, and the creation of the new Israel, possessed a cosmic sweep, an historical rootedness, and an immersion into mystery that I have never seen before, in a seamless interconnection with none of those embarrassing modular joints or ceremonial caesuras typical of the work of Vatican committees from 1948 onwards.
Dr. Peter Kwasniewski
This is spot on. I would add that this year, I was struck by the particularly insistent if understated theme of divine paternity, generation, and filiation found throughout the twelve readings. They build perfectly to the blessing of the font. This ritual, so clearly a stylised evocation of the procreative act, is elaborated through repeated prayers of fecundation. The font is renewed as a vessel of new life, the place where souls are adopted by God. The divine paternity in Christ, through the Spirit in the sacraments of the Church, is one of the Vigil’s great themes. I hadn’t noticed it before. But it makes sense. After all, our adoption as “filii et filiae” (in the words of the Vigil’s vesperal hymn) is entirely constituted by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In other words, the whole of the Paschal Mystery.
I was likewise struck by the apostrophising of the fire, candle, and water…I hadn’t noticed it before. It reminded me of the Old Believer icons that show the elemental spirits and the angels of the weather.
This Rite is clearly the product of a similar worldview. One gets the distinct sense that these are not mere poetic effluvia, but, as Dr. Kwasniewski notes, a real address to the material world, as if summoning it to sacramentality.
The liturgy had a majesty to it, a mounting series of joined but unconfused symbols, which the orations and lessons and ceremonies brought forth at a stately, leisurely pace: fire, candle, water, all *directly* addressed in words of power. It is the Church taking command of the rudiments of creation and literally ordering them to serve Christ and the salvation of souls.
Dr. Peter Kwasniewski
Man imprints a touch of humanity upon those animals and things he takes up into his own life. Dogs, for instance, are not mere beasts; they occupy a quasi-human realm by virtue of their adoption into our own homes and rhythms of life. That is – our culture.
God does much the same with His creation. A self-diffusing goodness, He creates and redeems us as integral persons after His own image and likeness. The old Paschal Vigil suggests that He also imprints both sacrality and a kind of elemental personality upon the non-hypostatic creation, too. The Trinity has, if you like, its own culture. God wishes us to join in that culture, that pattern of common life shared by the three Divine persons. God assimilates us to that culture by cultus.
Namely, the sacraments. In these rites, the Church teaches us how God animates the sacramental potential inherent in all nature.
There is much to meditate here upon the underlying spirituality of the natural and material world we inhabit. At any rate, all Catholics would do well to attend a pre-55 Easter next year if they can. They will experience the Church’s liturgical pedagogy at its deepest and most mystically resonant.
In the wake of recent tragic events, here is a litany (adapted from here) to the saints of France. May they pray for us, for France, and for the faithful of that great nation.
V. Kyrie, eléison. R. Christe, eléison. V. Kyrie, eléison.
V. Christe, audi nos. R. Christe, exáudi nos.
V. Pater de cælis, Deus. R. Miserére nobis.
V. Spíritus Sancte, Deus. R. Miserére nobis.
V. Sancta Trínitas, unus Deus. R. Miserére nobis.
Holy Mary, pray for us. Holy Mother of God, pray for us. Holy Virgin of virgins, pray for us. St. Michael, pray for us. St. Gabriel, pray for us. St. Raphael, pray for us. All you Holy Angels and Archangels, pray for us. St. John the Baptist, pray for us. St. Joseph, spouse of the Blessed Virgin, pray for us. All you Holy Patriarchs and Prophets, pray for us. Holy Mary, pray for us. Holy Mother of God, pray for us. Holy Virgin of virgins, pray for us. Our Lady of Paris, pray for us. Our Lady of La Salette, pray for us. Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us. Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, pray for us. Our Lady of Rocamadour, pray for us. Our Lady of Pontmain, pray for us.
St. Peter, pray for us. St. Paul, pray for us. St. Andrew, pray for us. St. James, pray for us. St. John, pray for us. St. Thomas, pray for us. St. James, pray for us. St. Philip, pray for us. St. Bartholomew, pray for us. St. Matthew, pray for us. St. Simon, pray for us. St. Jude, pray for us. St. Matthias, pray for us. St. Barnabas, pray for us. St. Luke, pray for us. St. Mark, pray for us. St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us. All you holy Apostles and Evangelists, pray for us. All you holy Disciples of the Lord, pray for us. All you holy Innocents, pray for us. All you holy Virgins, pray for us.
St. Abbo of Fleury , pray for France and the whole world. St. Adelaide of Italy , pray for France and the whole world. St. Adelelmus of Burgos , pray for France and the whole world. St. Adelelmus of Flanders , pray for France and the whole world. St. Adelin of Séez , pray for France and the whole world. St. Aderald , pray for France and the whole world. St. Aimo , pray for France and the whole world. St. Margaret Mary Alacoque , pray for France and the whole world. St. Albert of Montecorvino , pray for France and the whole world. St. Alexander (martyr) , pray for France and the whole world. St. Andrew of Trier , pray for France and the whole world. St. Anselm of Canterbury , pray for France and the whole world. St. Anthony the Hermit , pray for France and the whole world. St. Antoninus of Pamiers , pray for France and the whole world. St. Artaldus , pray for France and the whole world. St. Ascelina , pray for France and the whole world. St. Auspicius of Toul , pray for France and the whole world. St. Auspicius of Trier , pray for France and the whole world. St. Aventinus of Tours , pray for France and the whole world. St. Leonie Aviat , pray for France and the whole world. St. Aymard of Cluny , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Baldwin of Rieti , pray for France and the whole world. St. Madeleine Sophie Barat , pray for France and the whole world. St. Bernard of Clairvaux St. Bernard of Thiron , pray for France and the whole world. St. Siméon-François Berneux , pray for France and the whole world. St. Berno of Cluny , pray for France and the whole world. St. Bertrand of Comminges , pray for France and the whole world. St.Joan Elizabeth Bichier des Ages , pray for France and the whole world. St. Julie Billiart , pray for France and the whole world. St. Jean-Louis Bonnard , pray for France and the whole world. St. Pierre Dumoulin-Borie Bourgeoys , pray for France and the whole world. St. Jean de Brébeuf , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Canus Natus , pray for France and the whole world. St. Clotilde, pray for France and the whole world. St. Noël Chabanel , pray for France and the whole world. St. Peter Chanel , pray for France and the whole world. St. Jane Frances de Chantal , pray for France and the whole world. St. Colette of Corbie , pray for France and the whole world. St. Jean-Charles Cornay , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Antoine Daniel , pray for France and the whole world. St. Marie-Nicolas-Antoine Daveluy , pray for France and the whole world. St. Denis, pray for France and the whole world. St. Dionysius of Vienne , pray for France and the whole world. St. Domnin, pray for France and the whole world. St. Pierre-Henri Dorie , pray for France and the whole world. St. Rose Philippine Duchesne, pray for France and the whole world. St. Louis Gabriel Taurin Dufresse, pray for France and the whole world.
St. Ebontius , pray for France and the whole world. St. Élisabeth of the Trinity, pray for France and the whole world. St. Elzéar of Sabran , pray for France and the whole world. St. Émilie de Villeneuve , pray for France and the whole world. St. Émilien of Nantes, pray for France and of the whole world. St. Estelle , pray for France and the whole world. St. John Eudes , pray for France and the whole world. St. Peter Julian Eymard , pray for France and the whole world.
SS. Peter Faber, Felix, Fortunatus, and Achilleus, pray for France and the whole world. St. Floribert of Liège, pray for France and the whole world. St. Pierre Fourier, pray for France and the whole world. St. Andrew Fournet , pray for France and the whole world. St. Frederick of Liege , pray for France and the whole world.
St. François-Isidore Gagelin , pray for France and the whole world. St. Charles Garnier , pray for France and the whole world. St. Gaugericus , pray for France and the whole world. St. Geneviève, pray for France and the whole world. St. Gens, pray for France and the whole world. St. Gérard of Brogne , pray for France and the whole world. St. Goneri of Brittany , pray for France and the whole world. St. Goswin , pray for France and the whole world. St. René Goupil , pray for France and the whole world. St. Guarinus of Sitten , pray for France and the whole world. St. Théodore Guérin , pray for France and the whole world. St Guirec , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Hilary of Poitiers , pray for France and the whole world. St. Hugh of Noara , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Laurent-Joseph-Marius Imbert , pray for France and the whole world. St. Isabelle of France , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Joan of Arc, pray for France and the whole world. St. Joan of France, Duchess of Berry , pray for France and the whole world. St. Isaac Jogues , pray for France and the whole world. St. John of the Grating , pray for France and of the whole world. St. Judoc , pray for France and the whole world. St. Julian the Hospitaller , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Jean-Baptiste de La Salle , pray for France and the whole world. St. Catherine Labouré , pray for France and the whole world. St. Benedict Joseph Labre , pray for France and the whole world. St. Jean de Lalande , pray for France and the whole world. St. Gabriel Lalemant , pray for France and the whole world. St. Lambert of Vence, pray for France and the whole world. St. Jeanne de Lestonnac, pray for France and the whole world. St. Leudwinus, pray for France and the whole world. St. Louis IX, King of France, pray for France and the whole world.
St. Magloire, pray for France and the whole world. St. Jeanne-Marie de Maille , pray for France and the whole world. St. Malo, pray for France and the whole world. St. Joseph Marchand, pray for France and the whole world. St. Marie of the Incarnation, pray for France and the whole world. St. Louise de Marillac, pray for France and the whole world. SS. Louis Martin and Marie-Azélie Guérin, pray for France and the whole world. St. Maurice of Carnoet Méen, pray for France and the whole world. St. Louis de Montfort, pray for France and the whole world.
St. Nazarius, pray for France and the whole world.
St. Odo of Cluny, pray for France and the whole world. St. Ormond, pray for France and the whole world.
St. Paternus of Auch Patiens, pray for France and the whole world. St. Vincent de Paul, pray for France and the whole world. St. Paulinus of Trier , pray for France and the whole world. St Mary Euphrasia Pelletier , pray for France and the whole world. St. John Gabriel Perboyre , pray for France and the whole world. St. Peter of Juilly , pray for France and the whole world. St. Peter of Tarentaise , pray for France and the whole world. St. William Pinchon , pray for France and the whole world. St. Prosper of Aquitaine , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Quintian of Rodez , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Raymond of Barbastro , pray for France and the whole world. St. Raymond of Toulouse , pray for France and the whole world. St. Richard of Vaucelles , pray for France and the whole world. St. Richardis, pray for France and of the whole world. St. Roch , pray for France and the whole world. St. Émilie de Rodat , pray for France and the whole world. St. Benildus Romançon , pray for France and the whole world. St. Elizabeth Rose , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Francis de Sales , pray for France and the whole world. St. Saturnina , pray for France and the whole world. St. Augustin Schoeffler , pray for France and the whole world. St. Serenus the Gardener, pray for France and the whole world. SS Severinus, Exuperius, and Felician, pray for France and the whole world. St. Sigo , pray for France and the whole world. St. Bernadette Soubirous , pray for France and the whole world. St. Stephen of Obazine , pray for France and the whole world. St. Theobald of Dorat , pray for France and the whole world. St. Theodard , pray for France and the whole world. St. Theophilus of Corte , pray for France and the whole world. St. Thérèse of Lisieux , pray for France and the whole world. St. Thérèse Couderc, pray for France and the whole world. St. Claudine Thévenet , pray for France and the whole world. St. Joan Antidea Thouret , pray for France and the whole world. St. Tironensian Order , pray for France and the whole world. St. Torpes of Pisa , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Marie Thérèse Vauzou , pray for France and the whole world. St. Venant de Viviers , pray for France and the whole world. St. Théophane Vénard , pray for France and the whole world. St. Veranus of Vence , pray for France and the whole world. Sy. Emily de Vialar , pray for France and the whole world. St. John Vianney , pray for France and the whole world. St Vincent of Digne , pray for France and the whole world.
St. Walric, abbot of Leuconay , pray for France and the whole world. St. William of Æbelholt , pray for France and the whole world. St. William of Breteuil , pray for France and the whole world. St. William of Donjeon , pray for France and the whole world. St. William of Gellone , pray for France and the whole world. St. William of Pontoise , pray for France and the whole world. St. Wivina, pray for France and the whole world.
St. Zachary of Vienne, pray for France and the whole world.
Louis XVI, pray for France and the whole world. Marie-Antoinette, pray for France and the whole world. Cardinal Bérulle, pray for France and the whole world. Monsieur Olier, pray for France and the whole world. Madame Élisabeth, pray for France and the whole world. Mère Thérèse de Saint-Augustin, pray for France and the whole world. Mère Mectilde de Bar, pray for France and the whole world. Mère Yvonne-Aimeé de Jésus, pray for France and the whole world.
All ye holy martyrs, pray for France All ye holy kings and queens, pray for France and the whole world. All ye holy bishops, pray for France and the whole world. All ye holy priests and deacons, pray for France and the whole world. All ye holy monks and nuns, pray for France and the whole world. All ye holy virgins, pray for France and the whole world. All ye holy men and women, pray for France and the whole world.
PRAY FOR FRANCE.
Ye holy men and women, Saints of God, R. intercede for us. Be merciful R. spare us, O Lord. Be merciful R. graciously hear us, O Lord. From all evil, R. deliver us, O Lord. From all sin, R. deliver us, O Lord. From Thy wrath, R. deliver us, O Lord. From sudden and unprovided death, R. deliver us, O Lord. From the snares of the devil, R. deliver us, O Lord.
From anger, hatred, and all ill-will, R. deliver us, O Lord. From the spirit of fornication, R. deliver us, O Lord. From lightning and tempest, R. deliver us, O Lord. From the scourge of earthquake, R. deliver us, O Lord. From plague, famine and war, R. deliver us, O Lord. From everlasting death, R. deliver us, O Lord. . Through the mystery of Thy holy Incarnation, R. deliver us, O Lord. Through Thy coming, R. deliver us, O Lord. Through Thy nativity, R. deliver us, O Lord. Through Thy Baptism and holy fasting, R. deliver us, O Lord. Through Thy Cross and Passion, R. deliver us, O Lord. Through Thy Death and Burial, R. deliver us, O Lord. Through Thy Holy Resurrection, R. deliver us, O Lord. Through Thy wondrous Ascension, R. deliver us, O Lord. Through the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, In the day of judgment, R. deliver us, O Lord.
SUPPLICATION FOR VARIOUS NEEDS
We sinners, R. we beseech Thee, hear us. That Thou wouldst spare us, R. we beseech Thee, hear us. That Thou wouldst pardon us, R. we beseech Thee, hear us. That Thou wouldst bring us to true repentance, R. we beseech Thee, hear us. That Thou wouldst govern and preserve Thy Holy Church, R. we beseech Thee, hear us. That Thou wouldst preserve the Bishop of the Apostolic See, and all orders of the Church in holy religion, R. we beseech Thee, hear us. That Thou wouldst humble the enemies of Holy Church, R. we beseech Thee, hear us. That Thou wouldst grant peace and true concord to Christian kings and princes, R. we beseech Thee, hear us. That Thou wouldst grant peace and unity to all Christian peoples R. we beseech Thee, hear us. That Thou wouldst call back to the unity of the Church all who have strayed from her fold, and to guide all unbelievers into the light of the Gospel R. we beseech Thee, hear us. That Thou wouldst confirm and preserve us in Thy holy service, R. we beseech Thee, hear us. That Thou wouldst lift up our minds to heavenly desires, R. we beseech Thee, hear us. That Thou wouldst render eternal blessing to all our benefactors, R. we beseech Thee, hear us. That Thou wouldst deliver our souls and the souls of our brethren, relations and benefactors from eternal damnation, R. we beseech Thee, hear us. That Thou wouldst grant and preserve the fruits of the earth, R. we beseech Thee, hear us. That Thou wouldst grant eternal rest to all the faithful departed, R. we beseech Thee, hear us. That Thou wouldst graciously hear us, R. we beseech Thee, hear us.
Son of God, R. we beseech Thee, hear us. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, R. spare us, O Lord. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, R. graciously hear us, O Lord. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, R. have mercy on us. Christ, R. hear us. Christ, R. graciously hear us. Kyrie, eleison. R. Kyrie, eleison. Kyrie, eleison. R. Kyrie, eleison. Christe, eleison. R. Christe, eleison. Christe, eleison. R. Christe, eleison. Kyrie, eleison. R. Kyrie, eleison. Kyrie, eleison. R. Kyrie, eleison.
Our Father (in silence until) And lead us not into temptation, R. but deliver us from evil.
V. O God, come to my assistance; R. O Lord, make haste to help me. V. Let them be confounded and ashamed; R. those who seek my life. V. Let them be rebuffed and disgraced, R. those who wish me evil. V. Let them be turned away blushing for shame, R. those who say unto me: Aha! Aha!. But let all those who seek Thee: R. rejoice and be glad in Thee. And may they always say: “Great is the Lord”, R. all those who delight in Thy salvation. V. But I am afflicted and poor , R. O God, help me. Thou art my helper and deliverer, R. O Lord, do not delay. Amen. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. V. Save Thy servants. R. My God, who hope in Thee. V. Be unto us, O Lord, a tower of strength. R. In the face of the enemy.
V. Let not the enemy prevail against us. R. Nor the son of iniquity have power to harm us. . V. O Lord, deal not with us according to our sins. R. Nor render unto us according to our sins.
V. Let us pray for our Sovereign Pontiff Holy Father Pope Francis.
R. That The Lord preserve him and give him life, and make him blessed upon the earth, and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies. V. Let us pray for our benefactors. R. Deign to grant, O Lord, for the sake of Thy Name, eternal life to all those who do good to us. V. Let us pray for the faithful departed. R. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord: and let perpetual light shine upon them.
R. Amen. V. May they rest in peace. R. Amen. V. For our absent brethren. R. Save Thy servants who hope in Thee, O my God. V. Send them help, O Lord, from Thy holy place. R. And from Sion protect them.
V. O Lord, hear my prayer. R. And let my cry come unto Thee. V. The Lord be with you. R. And with thy spirit.
Collects: Let us pray:
O God, Whose property is always to have mercy and to spare, receive our petition; that we and all Thy servants who are bound by the chain of sin may, by the compassion of Thy goodness mercifully be absolved.
Graciously hear, we beseech Thee, O Lord, the prayers of Thy supplicants and pardon the sins of those who confess to Thee: that in Thy bounty Thou mayest grant us both pardon and peace. In Thy clemency, O Lord, show unto us Thine ineffabile mercy; that Thou mayest both free us from sins and deliver us from the punishments which we deserve for them.
O God, who by sin art offended, and by penance appeased, mercifully regard the prayers of Thy people making supplication to Thee; and turn away the scourges of Thy wrath which we deserve for our sins.
Almighty and everlasting God, have mercy upon Thy servant, N, our Sovereign Pontiff: and direct him according to Thy clemency into the way of everlasting salvation: that, by Thy grace, he may desire those things which are pleasing to Thee, and accomplish them with all his strength.
O God, from Whom are holy desires, right counsels, and just works: grant to Thy servants the peace which the world cannot give; that our hearts may be devoted to the keeping of Thy commandments, and that, being removed from the fear of our enemies, our times may be peaceful through Thy protection.
Inflame, O Lord, with the fire of the Holy Spirit, our hearts and our desires; that we may serve Thee with a chaste body and please Thee with a clean heart.
O God, the Creator and redeemer of all the faithful, grant to the souls of Thy departed servants the remission of all their sins; that through pious supplications they may obtain the pardon they have always desired.
Direct, we beseech Thee, O Lord, our actions by Thy holy inspirations and carry them on by Thy gracious assistance; that every prayer and work of ours may always begin with Thee and through Thee be happily ended.
Almighty and everlasting God, Who hast dominion over the living and the dead, and art merciful to all whom Thou foreknowest shall be Thine by faith and good works: we humbly beseech Thee; that they for whom we intend to pour forth our prayers, whether this present world still detains them in the flesh, or the world to come has already received them out of their bodies, may, through the intercession of all Thy Saints, and in Thy compassionate goodness, obtain the pardon of all their sins. Through Christ our Lord.
The Lord be with you. R. And with Thy spirit.
R. Amen. V. May the almighty and most merciful Lord graciously hear us. R. Amen.
R. Amen. V. And may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. R. Amen.
In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.
Amen. Prayer of Pius XII for France (1937)
Mère céleste, Notre-Dame, vous qui avez donné à cette nation tant de gages insignes de votre prédilection, implorez pour elle votre divin Fils ; ramenez-la au berceau spirituel de son antique grandeur. Aidez-la à recouvrer, sous la lumineuse et douce étoile de la Foi et de la vie chrétienne, sa félicité passée. Regina pacis ! Oh ! Oui ! Soyez vraiment au milieu de ce peuple qui est vôtre la Reine de la paix, écrasez de votre pied virginal le démon de la haine et de la discorde. Faites comprendre au monde, où tant d’âmes droites s’évertuent à édifier le temple de la paix, le secret qui seul assurera le succès de leurs efforts : établir au centre de ce temple le trône royal de votre divin Fils et rendre hommage à sa loi sainte, en laquelle la justice et l’amour s’unissent en un chaste baiser. Et que par Vous la France, fidèle à sa vocation, soutenue dans son action par la puissance de la prière, par la concorde dans la charité, par une ferme et indéfectible vigilance, exalte dans le monde le triomphe et le Règne du Christ, Prince de la Paix, Roi des rois et Seigneur des seigneurs.
In the ongoing sexual abuse crisis that has wracked the Roman Catholic Church, it is helpful to remember that the evil transpires on both spiritual and historical planes. That is to say, we can productively speak of sexual abuse as a spiritual attack upon the Church’s absolute purity, a purity she receives from Christ, her spouse and head. The violations committed by priests and religious is a stain upon that purity but nevertheless leaves the fundamental holiness of the Church intact. And this because the Church has no holiness that is not primarily the holiness of Jesus. All that is good in her flows from Him.
However, we can maintain this truth while simultaneously recognizing deep underlying structural problems in the Church’s culture and modus operandi. The holiness of the Church comes from above, not below; in the course of human history, we have often seen great evils nurtured within the very breast of the Church as a human institution. The sex abuse crisis is one such horror. Only a realistic attitude can bring us the reform that we so desperately need.
It’s because of this that I was disappointed to read Benedict XVI’s recent letter on the subject. There are certain passages that show the Pope-Emeritus’s continuing theological acumen. He writes movingly about the primacy of Faith, especially Faith in the Blessed Sacrament, as a foundational principle of renewal in our time. He also calls for a deeper ecclesial sensibility among the faithful. Catholics should meditate on these passages, which have a good deal of insight and even consoling power. His words on martyrdom are particularly profound and poignant, given his own impending mortality.
However, as a response to the egregious crimes committed by priests and other clerical personnel against innocents, the document represents a major failure.
This letter is a turgid, historically specious bit of sleight of hand. In treating the abuse crisis as a problem of laxity in moral teaching, the Pope turns sex abuse into a theological problem. He is closer to the heart of things when he discusses the evolution of the disciplinary measures in Canon Law and the various difficulties thrown up by legal “reforms” in the middle of the century. However, he also dissolves the very real psychological and social factors that permitted a culture of tolerance for pedophilia within the church to flourish for so long. Ratzinger writes, “Why did pedophilia reach such proportions? Ultimately, the reason is the absence of God.” This is, strictly speaking, a spiritual truth. Had the Pope-Emeritus treated this as a statement about the souls of the pedophiles, for whom God must be in some way ultimately unreal, the statement would be entirely defensible. However, Ratzinger is speaking historically. He immediately seems to attribute to the spread of pedophilia to secularization in Europe.
After the upheaval of the Second World War, we in Germany had still expressly placed our Constitution under the responsibility to God as a guiding principle. Half a century later, it was no longer possible to include responsibility to God as a guiding principle in the European constitution. God is regarded as the party concern of a small group and can no longer stand as the guiding principle for the community as a whole.
The problem is relativism – namely, secular relativism as an other, as something outside the life of the Church. We read, “The long-prepared and ongoing process of dissolution of the Christian concept of morality was…marked by an unprecedented radicalism in the 1960s.” According to the Pope, “Part of the physiognomy of the Revolution of ‘68 was that pedophilia was then also diagnosed as allowed and appropriate…It was theorized only a short time ago as quite legitimate, but it has spread further and further.” He takes the cause of recent pedophilia, and thus of the scandals within the Church, to be the sexual revolution.
But apart from Gayle Rubin, the filmmakers who got Jodie Foster and Brooke Shields naked, and the perverts at NAMBLA, who exactly were the people trying to normalize pedophilia? C.C. Pecknold suggests it might be those activists in favor of “abolishing age-of-consent laws since the 1970s.” Possibly. At any rate, the Pope provides neither names nor sources. It’s a serious enough claim that he owes us that courtesy. To what extent were these efforts merely marginal phenomena? He seems to take them as a synecdoche of the broader movement, however implausibly.
By appealing to an established right-wing boogeyman (sixties revolutionaries), he dissolves the problem into a theological haze. He makes no mention of the complex psychological reasons for abuse, simply posits that relativism leads to sexual license. Nor does he prove any causes to tie together his case studies. He just asserts that various phenomena are connected without supplying proof. Given the genre of the piece, perhaps this brevity is to be expected. But is this schema really representative of Ratzinger’s mentality as he handled sex abuse cases in his tenure as head of the CDF and, later, as Pope? If so, no wonder things were so long mismanaged and so often minimized. Sex abuse is not a matter of which moral theologians you’re reading, and to treat it as such is profoundly irresponsible.
The fact that Francis asked Benedict to prepare this statement suggests to me that it represents an attempt by both Popes to shoot the elephant (and scapegoat) in the room, namely, the homosexuality of the clergy. This phenomenon has become the cause célèbre of conservative and traditional Catholics trying to understand the sex abuse crisis. It has also been recently highlighted in a largely credible if somewhat sensationalist way by the gay activist Frédéric Martel, whose book on clerical homosexuality Catholics should read (if with a grain of salt). Too sharp a focus on homosexuality (a) doesn’t actually solve the problem of clerical sex abuse and (b) is too dangerous for all ideological camps (no pun intended) within the clerical establishment. Ratzinger’s letter here shifts the focus away from that particular systemic and more or less quantifiable phenomenon and onto an amorphous if politically-charged abstract. While I can’t be sure, the missive seems to be designed to influence Ratzinger’s own partisans and lead them away from the gay issue.
After all, the one narrative that Ratzinger doesn’t tell us is the one most favored by conservatives. Namely, as Pecknold puts it, “by the late 1980s the homosexual hierarchies that ruled now were descending, with greater frequency, into pedophilia.” But this is not what the Pope writes. In a passage worth quoting at length, Ratzinger tells us,
In various seminaries homosexual cliques were established, which acted more or less openly and significantly changed the climate in the seminaries. In one seminary in southern Germany, candidates for the priesthood and candidates for the lay ministry of the pastoral specialist [Pastoralreferent] lived together. At the common meals, seminarians and pastoral specialists ate together, the married among the laymen sometimes accompanied by their wives and children, and on occasion by their girlfriends. The climate in this seminary could not provide support for preparation to the priestly vocation. The Holy See knew of such problems, without being informed precisely. As a first step, an Apostolic Visitation was arranged of seminaries in the United States. As the criteria for the selection and appointment of bishops had also been changed after the Second Vatican Council, the relationship of bishops to their seminaries was very different, too. Above all, a criterion for the appointment of new bishops was now their “conciliarity,” which of course could be understood to mean rather different things. Indeed, in many parts of the Church, conciliar attitudes were understood to mean having a critical or negative attitude towards the hitherto existing tradition, which was now to be replaced by a new, radically open relationship with the world. One bishop, who had previously been seminary rector, had arranged for the seminarians to be shown pornographic films, allegedly with the intention of thus making them resistant to behavior contrary to the faith. There were — not only in the United States of America — individual bishops who rejected the Catholic tradition as a whole and sought to bring about a kind of new, modern “Catholicity” in their dioceses. Perhaps it is worth mentioning that in not a few seminaries, students caught reading my books were considered unsuitable for the priesthood. My books were hidden away, like bad literature, and only read under the desk. The Visitation that now took place brought no new insights, apparently because various powers had joined forces to conceal the true situation. A second Visitation was ordered and brought considerably more insights, but on the whole failed to achieve any outcomes. Nonetheless, since the 1970s the situation in seminaries has generally improved. And yet, only isolated cases of a new strengthening of priestly vocations came about as the overall situation had taken a different turn.
That first line is the only explicit reference to homosexuality in the entire letter. In his his forceful First Things follow-up, Archbishop Chaput confirms this point:
He remains silent on what many see as the continuing resistance of Rome to candidly name the core issue of the clergy abuse problem, which is not primarily a matter of clerical privilege but rather a pattern of predatory homosexuality.
Archbishop Charles Chaput
Ratzinger is quick to move from the various gay circles among the seminarians of yesteryear to the presence of women in seminaries, and then on to theological liberalism in general. This is not the argument, put forward by so many, that homosexuality in the priesthood leads to sex abuse. It’s a broader case, one that sees homosexuality as only one part in a constellation of radicalism.
And it’s a radicalism that emphatically has its origins outside of the Church. Archbishop Chaput builds on Benedict, writing,
But priests and bishops have no miraculous immunity to the abnormality bubbling around them. Ratzinger locates the seed of the current crisis in the deliberate turn toward sexual anarchy that marked much of Europe in the 1960s, and the complete failure of Catholic moral theologians to counter it—a failure that more often resembled fellow-traveling.
Archbishop Charles Chaput
This is nothing less than an abdication of moral responsibility. The 1960’s did not produce pedophilia, ephebophilia, or the longstanding culture of omertà among the hierarchy (see the extensive research carried out by, inter alia, Richard Sipe). Indeed, predatory sexuality has been in the Church for a long time. I refer the reader to the cultures created by Cardinal Spellman in New York, Cardinal O’Connell in Boston, and Cardinal Wright in Worcester. The permissiveness in these dioceses was in place before the sexual revolution hit, and in each we see major flare-ups of the child sex abuse crisis. We could look back even further. There were pedophiles in the circle of St. Joseph Calasanz, and he died in 1648!
The cover-up, too, has a long life. As Ulrich Lehner has pointed out, the old practice used to be that religious orders had to destroy any incriminating files every five years; the use of special prisons for clergy and religious only added to the secrecy of the early modern ecclesiastical disciplinary apparatus. All of these points undermine the basic historical narrative Ratzinger tells us – namely, that the sexual revolution and subsequent buckling of Catholic moral theology lead to a simultaneous spread of pedophilia and a complete failure of the ecclesiastical establishment to respond.
One of the less edifying elements in the letter is that Ratzinger took the time to engage in subtle if unmistakeable academic score-settling throughout. Speaking of an ethicist he disagreed with, Ratzinger writes,
I shall never forget how then-leading German moral theologian Franz Böckle, who, having returned to his native Switzerland after his retirement, announced in view of the possible decisions of the encyclical Veritatis splendor that if the encyclical should determine that there were actions which were always and under all circumstances to be classified as evil, he would challenge it with all the resources at his disposal. It was God, the Merciful, that spared him from having to put his resolution into practice; Böckle died on July 8, 1991.
Leaving aside the question of whether Böckle was right (and he wasn’t), the slight chuckle with which Benedict describes his death is extraordinarily petty. What a tawdry, sorry, cynical intervention from the ailing pontiff.
The letter fails in its description of the sources of pedophilia and ephebophilia. Yet at least Ratzinger attempts to make a case for why the priesthood has seen such widespread sexualization, with such prominent lapses, over the course of the last few decades. His letter does not, however, address the cover-up at all. If anything, he seems to end the letter on a rather troubling note:
Today, the accusation against God is, above all, about characterizing His Church as entirely bad, and thus dissuading us from it. The idea of a better Church, created by ourselves, is in fact a proposal of the devil, with which he wants to lead us away from the living God, through a deceitful logic by which we are too easily duped. No, even today the Church is not just made up of bad fish and weeds. The Church of God also exists today, and today it is the very instrument through which God saves us.
I suppose that, on the spiritual level, the Pope is not wrong here. But it does rather seem to me that he is perhaps too concerned with the reputation of the Church – a holy body, yes, but also one riddled with both sexual predators and the venal men who protect them. In trying to end on a hopeful message, the Pope sounds a false note. He seems to have erased the mysterium iniquitatis. The effect is one of minimization of grave evil rather than a proper and reforming zelus domus Domini.
Yet the most frustrating feature of this letter, beyond its occasional historical errors and indulgence in the petty sparring of academia, is that it feeds into a narrative that conservative Catholics have used for years to exonerate themselves in the sex abuse crisis. That narrative chalks up clerical sex abuse to post-conciliar laxity alongside the sexual revolution. If only, these conservatives and traditionalists say, if only we hadn’t gone off the rails in 1968. Sex abuse becomes the exclusive property of ecclesiastical liberals.
But this is a false narrative. It’s a lie – a half-truth, perhaps, but still a lie – that conceals the suffering of victims prior to that age as well as all those who have suffered abuse at the hands of conservative and traditionalist clergy. Men for whom the Revolution did not transpire. There are many examples of this kind of thing. One only needs to point to Marcial Maciel, Carlos Urrutigoity, Tony Anatrella, Fernando Karadima…the list goes on. None of these men were liberals. Some worked closely with John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Yet the narrative in this letter cheapens the experience of their victims and lulls conservatives and traditionalists into a false sense of self-righteous security – exactly the opposite of what we need if we are ever to get a handle on the problem of clerical sex abuse wherever it should rear its ugly head. It’s a narrative that helps us look the other way as more and more innocents get hurt. And it’s gravely irresponsible for the Pope-Emeritus to propagate this lie.
As a continuation of the Lenten Spirituality Series, here is a passage from St. Alphonsus Liguori’s The Glories of Mary. The Friday in Passiontide is the Church’s traditional commemoration of Our Lady’s seven sorrows; it is a fitting prelude to the divine suffering of her Son in Holy Week. I am particularly fond of St. Alphonsus, as he was one of the greatest mystics of the eighteenth century.
As Jesus is called the King of sorrows and the King of martyrs, because He suffered during, His life more than all other martyrs; so also is Mary with reason called the Queen of martyrs, having merited this title by suffering the most cruel martyrdom possible after that of her Son. Hence, with reason, was she called by Richard of Saint Lawrence, “the Martyr of martyrs”; and of her can the words of Isaias with all truth be said, “He will crown thee with a crown of tribulation;” that is to say, that that suffering itself, which exceeded the suffering of all the other martyrs united, was the crown by which she was shown to be the Queen of martyrs. That Mary was a true martyr cannot be doubted, as Denis the Carthusian, Pelbart, Catharinus, and others prove; for it is an undoubted opinion that suffering sufficient to cause death is martyrdom, even though death does not ensue from it. Saint John the Evangelist is revered as a martyr, though he did not die in the caldron of boiling oil, but he came out more vigorous than he went in. Saint Thomas says, “that to have the glory of martyrdom, it is sufficient to exercise obedience in its highest degree, that is to say, to be obedient unto death.” “Mary was a martyr,” says Saint Bernard, “not by the sword of the executioner, but by bitter sorrow of heart.” If her body was not wounded by the hand of the executioner, her blessed heart was transfixed by a sword of grief at the passion of her Son; grief which was sufficient to have caused her death, not once, but a thousand times. From this we shall see that Mary was not only a real martyr, but that her martyrdom surpassed all others; for it was longer than that of all others, and her whole life may be said to have been a prolonged death.
“The passion of Jesus,” as Saint Bernard says, “commenced with
His birth”. So also did Mary, in all things like unto her Son, endure her
martyrdom throughout her life. Amongst other significations of the name of Mary,
as Blessed Albert the Great asserts, is that of “a bitter sea.” Hence
to her is applicable the text of Jeremias : “great as the sea is thy
destruction.” For as the sea is all bitter and salt, so also was the life
of Mary always full of bitterness at the sight of the passion of the Redeemer,
which was ever present to her mind. “There can be no doubt, that,
enlightened by the Holy Ghost in a far higher degree than all the prophets, she,
far better than they, understood the predictions recorded by them in the sacred
Scriptures concerning the Messias.” This is precisely what the angel
revealed to St. Bridget; and he also added, `that the Blessed Virgin, even
before she became His Mother, knowing how much the Incarnate Word was to suffer
for the salvation of men, and compassionating this innocent Saviour, who was to
be so cruelly put to death for crimes not His own, even then began her great
Her grief was immeasurably increased when she became the Mother of this Saviour; so that at the sad sight of the many torments which were to be endured by her poor Son, she indeed suffered a long martyrdom, a martyrdom which lasted her whole life. This was signified with great exactitude to Saint Bridget in a vision which she had in Rome, in the church of Saint Mary Major, where the Blessed Virgin with Saint Simeon, and an angel bearing a very long sword, reddened with blood, appeared to her, denoting thereby the long, and bitter grief which transpierced the heart of Mary during her whole life. When the above named Rupert supposes Mary thus speaking: “Redeemed souls, and my beloved children, do not pity me only for the hour in which I beheld my dear Jesus expiring before my eyes; for the sword of sorrow predicted by Simeon pierced my soul during the whole of my life: when I was giving suck to my Son, when I was warming Him in my arms, I already foresaw the bitter death that awaited Him. Consider, then, what long and bitter sorrows I must have endured.”
Wherefore Mary might well say, in the words of David, “My life is wasted
with grief, and my years in sighs.” “My sorrow is continually before
me.” “My whole life was spent in sorrow and in tears; for my sorrow,
which was compassion for my beloved Son, never departed from before my eyes, as
I always foresaw the sufferings and death which He was one day to endure.”
The Divine Mother herself revealed to Saint Bridget, that “even after the
death and ascension of her Son, whether she ate, or worked, the remembrance of
His passion was ever deeply impressed on her mind, and fresh in her tender
heart”. Hence Tauler says, “that the most Blessed Virgin spent her
whole life in continual sorrow;” for her heart was always occupied with
sadness and with suffering.
Therefore time, which usually mitigates the sorrows of the afflicted, did not relieve Mary; nay, even it increased her sorrow; for, as Jesus, on the one hand, advanced in age, and always appeared more and more beautiful and amiable; so also, on the other hand, the time of His death always drew nearer, and grief always increased in the heart of Mary, at the thought of having to lose Him on earth. So that, in the words addressed by the angel to Saint Bridget: “As the rose grows up amongst thorns, so the Mother of God advanced in years in the midst of sufferings; and as the thorns increase with the growth of the rose, so also did the thorns of her sorrows increase in Mary, the chosen rose of the Lord, as she advanced in age; and so much the more deeply did they pierce her heart.
Richard Crashaw, one of the great Catholic poets of the seventeenth century, is a perennial source of inspiration. His verse preserves a mystical sensibility that is as refreshing today as it was when it was first composed in the Baroque era. This selection, “A Song,” is one of my favorites. I first had to memorize it many years ago in an English class on prayers (at Mr. Jefferson’s famously secular University, no less). I keep returning to it only to find new riches and new consolations. It seems eminently suited to our mid-Lenten moment, when the faithful yearn to see the face of the Resurrected and Glorified Christ.
LORD, when the sense of thy sweet grace Sends up my soul to seek thy face. Thy blessed eyes breed such desire, I dy in love’s delicious Fire.
O love, I am thy Sacrifice. Be still triumphant, blessed eyes. Still shine on me, fair suns! that I Still may behold, though still I dy.
Though still I dy, I live again; Still longing so to be still slain, So gainfull is such losse of breath. I dy even in desire of death.
Still live in me this loving strife Of living Death and dying Life. For while thou sweetly slayest me Dead to my selfe, I live in Thee.
As part of my Lenten Spirituality Series, here is Dame Julian of Norwich’s meditation on the thirst of Christ, Chapter XVII of Revelations of Divine Love:
“How might any pain be more to me than to see Him that is all my life, and all my bliss, and all my joy suffer?
And in this dying was brought to my mind the words
of Christ: I thirst.
For I saw in Christ a double thirst: one bodily; another spiritual…
For this word was shewed for the bodily thirst: the which I understood was caused by failing of moisture. For the blessed flesh and bones was left all alone without blood and moisture. The blessed body dried alone long time with wringing of the nails and weight of the body. For I understood that for tenderness of the sweet hands and of the sweet feet, by the greatness, hardness, and grievousness of the nails the wounds waxed wide and the body sagged, for weight by long time hanging. And [therewith was] piercing and pressing of the head, and binding of the Crown all baked with dry blood, with the sweet hair clinging, and the dry flesh, to the thorns, and the thorns to the flesh drying; and in the beginning while the flesh was fresh and bleeding, the continual sitting of the thorns made the wounds wide. And furthermore I saw that the sweet skin and the tender flesh, with the hair and the blood, was all raised and loosed about from the bone, with the thorns where-through it were rent in many pieces, as a cloth that were sagging, as if it would hastily have fallen off, for heaviness and looseness, while it had natural moisture. And that was great sorrow and dread to me: for methought I would not for my life have seen it fall. How it was done I saw not; but understood it was with the sharp thorns and the violent and grievous setting on of the Garland of Thorns, unsparingly and without pity. This continued awhile, and soon it began to change, and I beheld and marvelled how it might be. And then I saw it was because it began to dry, and stint a part of the weight, and set about the Garland. And thus it encircled all about, as it were garland upon garland. The Garland of the Thorns was dyed with the blood, and that other garland [of Blood] and the head, all was one colour, as clotted blood when it is dry. The skin of the flesh that shewed (of the face and of the body), was small-rimpled  with a tanned colour, like a dry board when it is aged; and the face more brown than the body.
I saw four manner of dryings: the first was bloodlessness;
the second was pain following after; the third,
hanging up in the air, as men hang a cloth to dry; the
fourth, that the bodily Kind asked liquid and there was
no manner of comfort ministered to Him in all His woe
and distress. Ah! hard and grievous was his pain, but
much more hard and grievous it was when the moisture
failed and began to dry thus, shrivelling.
These were the pains that shewed in the blessed head:
the first wrought to the dying, while it had moisture;
and that other, slow, with shrinking drying, [and] with
blowing of the wind from without, that dried and pained
Him with cold more than mine heart can think.
And other pains—for which pains I saw that all is
too little that I can say: for it may not be told.
The which Shewing of Christ’s pains filled me full of
pain. For I wist well He suffered but once, but [this
was as if] He would shew it me and fill me with mind
as I had afore desired. And in all this time of Christ’s
pains I felt no pain but for Christ’s pains. Then thought-me:
I knew but little what pain it was that I asked; and,
as a wretch, repented me, thinking: If I had wist what
it had been, loth me had been to have prayed it. For methought
it passed bodily death, my pains.
I thought: Is any pain like this? And I was answered in my reason: Hell is another pain: for there is despair. But of all pains that lead to salvation this is the most pain, to see thy Love suffer. How might any pain be more to me than to see Him that is all my life, all my bliss, and all my joy, suffer? Here felt I soothfastly  that I loved Christ so much above myself that there was no pain that might be suffered like to that sorrow that I had to [see] Him in pain.
On March 16th, 1583, St. Philip Neri worked one of his greatest miracles. Having been called to the deathbed of Paolo, the young scion of the noble Massimo family, he arrived to find that he was too late. The youth was half an hour dead and, what’s worse, unshriven. But time and its corrosive powers are nothing before the grace of the Almighty. Thirty minutes of sorrow were given as the short prelude to a feat that would win this servant of God a heavenly renown and, for the youth himself, an eternity of joy.
We can imagine the scene well enough. The wailing mother, pressing her tear-stained face into the breast of her grieving husband, the servants praying for their dear lost lord, the doctors already retreating with a grimace of embarassment at their failure. Into this scene walks the silent old priest, calm as the eye of a hurricane. He receives the news with a stoic frown. Then, lifting his eyes in prayer, imploring the power of the hand that once raised Lazarus, he breathes upon the eyes so lately shut. He whispers,
This invocation brings forth a mystery beyond reckoning – the boy stirs and wakes, as if he had only nodded off a few minutes before.
We can only imagine the joy that fell upon the hearts of the mourners. What stunned clamor must have erupted in that little chamber! Yet the saint is ever in control. He commands all to leave, that he might hear Prince Paolo’s confession. Having cleansed the boy’s soul with the assoiling balms of penance, St. Philip spoke to him for thirty minutes. Would that we had some record of their conversation! There can be no doubt that the solicitous confessor was preparing the soul to meet God.
For that is the strangest thing of all in the story of the Paolo Massimo’s resurrection. It was only temporary. The thirty minutes of death are undone, yes, but only for about another thirty minutes of life. The parents of the young prince were, no doubt, bitterly disappointed at this second loss, a departure made even more painful by the desperate hope it stirred in their hearts.
Yet it was a miracle indeed – and it shows us a salutary truth about miracles. They are not for our comfort. They are not granted to appease our desires, however noble. Providence instead works all things, natural and graced, with only one end in view – the greater glory of God. St. Philip was sent to bring Paolo Massimo into eternal life, not to grant him any more time on earth. That was his duty, the quintessential duty of every priest.
We live in an age when the priesthood seems so mired in scandal and banality, torn this way and that by the worldly ambitions of the clergy, stained with sins of every kind. Lust, violence, abuse, pride, vanity, greed, division, cruelty, party faction – all of these wicked tendencies and more have obscured the nobility of the sacerdotal office, a dignity drawn entirely from the crucified Heart of our Great High Priest.
That is why we must remember the story of St. Philip and Paolo Massimo. It reminds us of why we have priests – of what the priest must do, and of what he must be.
The priest is a conduit of grace. His steps, his works, his words, his hands do not belong to him, but to God. They step into the wounded rhythm of our natural life and bear the healing presence of the supernatural. They raise us from the dead, but only that we might make a better death in the end.
St. Philip’s miracle today is commemorated with a proper Mass. May he pray that all of us might rise from the living death of sin and enter a dying life of grace.
The inimitable John McManners, late Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History at the University of Oxford, provides a window into the world of late Ancien Régime piety (or, rather, its dearth) in his monumental Church and Society in Eighteenth-Century France. He writes:
“To what extent was the fast of Lent observed? It was commonly said that the austerities of the penitential season were endured only by the poor. According to the Lenten pastoral letter of the archbishop of Sens in 1779, the rich often obtained medical certificates allowing them to eat what they liked. This was the fashionable thing to do. ‘Look at our bourgeois citizen and his wife in their (draper’s) shop, observing Lent strictly,’ said teh Jesuit Père Croisset in his Parallel des moeurs de ce siècle et la morale de Jesus-Christ (1727): ‘their fortune changes…and scarcely has the tape measure dropped from their hands than you see them putting on airs like people of quality and asking for dispensations from fasting.’ This class distinction was observed even in the kitchens of the Bastille: on the first Friday of his imprisonment, Marmontel gloomily at the meatless meal provided, not knowing that it had been meant for his servant. In any case, there were plenty of succulent dishes within the rules, for those who could afford them.
“Lent was the season to have tubs of fresh butter sent in from the countryside, and to ensure plentiful supplies of fish and water birds (the tes of an allowable fowl was: did the gravy remain uncongealed after fifteen minutes? – so a bishop gravely advised Mme Victoire, Louis XV’s pious but comfortable daughter). The peasant, whose existence is a perpetual Lent anyway, said Voltaire, awaits episcopal permission to eat his farmyard eggs, while the bishop himself looks forward to expensive dishes of soles. Certainly, things were well organized at Versailles. ‘A ray of grace has descended on us,’ wrote the duc de la Vallière in April 1756; ‘we fasted for three days a week during the whole of Lent, but on condition that we suffered no deprivations.’ Preachers were well aware that those with money and leisure could organize an attractive Lent for themselves: an occasional walk in a procession (a penitent’s garb was no disadvantage to a good-looking woman), extra time in bed to recuperate from privations, and food more delicately cooked and served than usual. ‘For some – God grant that there are none in my congregation today,’ thundered the Oratorian Surian, ‘Lent is a more agreeable time, in a sophisticated way, than the other seasons of the year.'”
“What a shock, Maximiliana has to be the life of the party AGAIN.”
“I think the real trouble in the Church today is the shortage of lace.”
Princess-Abbess Christina zu Mecklenburg isn’t angry. She’s just disappointed.
“I’m not like a regular Princess-Abbess, I’m a cool Princess-Abbess. Observe my nude statues, dogs, and trendy collection of seashells.”
Winged headdresses are in this year.
“This crosier was made by fifty leper goldsmiths on a Greek island owned by the Doge of Venice. My uncle, the Cardinal of Trieste and Titular Abbot of Unter-Festschrift, gave it to me at my accession.”
Therese Natalie of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, Princess-Abbess of Gandersheim, with her pendulous string of pearls, miniature portrait bracelet, powdered blue watered silk sash, ermine, and bejewelled Bible, is a model of noble simplicity.
“Well, grey is a penitential color, after all. More than what you’re wearing, heathen.”
“They told me it was the crown or the hair. I chose the hair.”
The face when you realize that someone has spilled ketchup and mustard everywhere.
Marie Elisabeth von Holstein-Gottorf, Princess-Abbess of Quedlinburg, knows what you did. And she is not amused.
“What cloister is ever complete without tropical plants?”
‘Catholicity, Antiquity, and consent of the Fathers, is the proper evidence of the fidelity or Apostolicity of a professed Tradition’ J.H. Newman, Lectures on the Prophetical Office of the Church, 1837, p. 51